Album Review – NovaReign / Legends (2018)

A fast, melodic and intricate album that perfectly represents the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games.

Influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, to Dragonforce and Angra, American metallers  NovaReign represent the new age of Progressive Power Metal, telling stories in musical literature and speaking to a generation influenced by epic fantasy tales, comic books and video games. Formed in 2010 in the city of Los Angeles, California, in the United States, NovaReign are not only inspired by the aforementioned classic metal acts, but they also incorporate elements from a multitude of non-metal styles such as Jazz, Funk and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to their high-octane music, adding a little extra flavor to their already exciting compositions.

The band has been steadily and surely building a buzz and reputation for themselves in recent years, becoming a fixture with energy-abounding live shows filled with nonstop shredding guitar interplay and powerful traditional metal vocals, altogether culminating in the release of their debut full-length album this year, the nonstop metal attack titled Legends, an hour-plus of shred-tastic, over-the-top, epic power and progressive metal music. Not only that, the album art also transpires epicness, as explained by guitarist Danny Nobel. “The art was based off an idea I had pitched to have giant statues of god-like figures in an astral plain,” explains Danny. “Our bassist, Moises, took the idea and created the drawings you’ve seen so far. The characters are all based on warriors and mythical beings, which represent themes of courage, heroism, strength and virtue. These are characteristics and themes of the overall album. That along with a cosmic decor.”

The opening tune, titled Call On The Storm, brings forward progressiveness flowing from the very first second from the melodic guitar lines by Danny and his bandmate Balmore Lemus, gradually becoming a Power Metal feast led by the high-pitched vocals by frontman David Marquez. And the action doesn’t stop at all, with gripping solos and faster-than-a-bullet beats keeping the electricity at a really high level. Then get ready for 10 minutes of pure Melodic Heavy Metal in Mace Of A Fist, where Danny and Balmore are on fire with their Dragonforce-inspired riffs and solos while drummer Paul Contreras keeps blasting furious and precise beats, not to mention the second half of the song which is that type of sonic “masturbation” fans of Melodic and Progressive Metal truly love. And let’s say their “metal masturbation” goes on in another classic Power Metal extravaganza titled Beyond The Cold, presenting a galloping rhythm crafted by bassist Moises Gavez together with Paul, perfect for David to blast sheer epicness through his vocals and to Danny and Balmore to deliver some insane guitar solos.

The following song in Legends, the excellent Heavy Heart, reminds me of the sound by some of the best metal bands from Japan such as Moi Dix Mois, Versailles, Anthem and especially Saber Tiger and Loudness, being fast, intricate, electrifying and an absolute orgasm for fans of the genre. And have I mentioned their guitar solos are simply fantastic? Anyway, moving on with their sonic onrush, Skyline feels a lot less intense than its predecessors, but still presenting the band’s characteristic sonority. All band members are precise with their instruments, providing David all he needs to powerfully declaim the song’s lyrics, with the only issue being that the song goes on for too long with its almost 9 minutes of music.

The sound of rain and an acoustic guitar set the tone in the bridge To Wander The Stars, before NovaRegin return with another metallic, melodic and inspiring tune entitled The Builder. Led by the rhythmic drums by Paul, the song presents the band’s guitar duo simply slashing their strings mercilessly, therefore generating a piercing but very enjoyable sound in the end. In Black As The Dead Of Night we’re treated to a 9-minute onslaught of Power Metal with Danny and Belmore being two shredding and soloing machines, with the work done by Paul on drums being outstanding. Moreover, despite being as long as “Skyline”, it has a lot more flavor and punch, maintaining the energy flowing until the end. And lastly, the title-track Legends brings tons of progressiveness through the band’s intricate riffs and beats, as well as the awesome bass punches by Moises. Put differently, it’s a heavier and more melodic version of Dream Theater with hints of Iron Maiden, which means that if you’re a musician and into Power Metal, this song has everything you crave in heavy music.

In case you think my words are not detailed enough to describe the music by NovaReign, you can enjoy the band doing a really nice track by track breakdown on YouTube, and after enjoying such interesting video you should definitely go check what NovaReign are up to on Facebook, and purchase Legends through their official BandCamp page, through the M-Theory Audio webshop, on iTunes, on Amazon, and in other retailers like Target, Adipocere Records and DeepDiscount. And there you have the perfect (and very intricate and melodic) soundtrack for your most epic adventures, how about that?

Best moments of the album: Call On The Storm, Beyond The Cold, Heavy Heart and Black As The Dead Of Night.

Worst moments of the album: Skyline.

Released in 2018 M-Theory Audio

Track listing
1. Call On The Storm 6:58
2. Mace Of A Fist 10:10
3. Beyond The Cold 5:58
4. Heavy Heart 5:09
5. Skyline 8:56
6. To Wander The Stars 2:24
7. The Builder 5:22
8. Black As The Dead Of Night 8:44
9. Legends 9:25

Band members
David Marquez – vocals
Danny Nobel – guitars
Balmore Lemus – guitars
Moises Gavez – bass
Paul Contreras – drums


Metal Chick of the Month – Tina Guo

A true metal cello Wonder Woman!

She might not be a pure Heavy Metal woman, but her superior skills and her passion for music truly make her unique. Armed with her flammable cello or with her whimsical erhu (the same two-stringed bowed musical instrument used by Taiwanese metallers Chthonic), she has been embellishing stages, movies, television and video game scores with her refined technique and stunning looks since around 1994, when her unparalleled career kicked off. Born on October 28, 1985 in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, a global financial centre and transport hub and one of the most populous cities in the world with a population of more than 24 million as of 2017, but currently residing in Los Angeles, California, United States, here comes the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Chinese-American cellist, erhuist, recording artist and composer Tina Guo (or 郭婷娜 in Chinese), a woman with a multi-faceted career and mastery in a wide range of genres, showcasing a deep and strong passion for musical exploration, artistic expression and technology. And of course, among all that, there’s still time for her to demonstrate her appreciation for our good old heavy music.

Tina Guo was born in Shanghai to father Lu-Yan Guo, a concert cellist, and mother Fei-Fei Soong, a concert violinist, both artistic directors of the California International Music and Art Festival, an annual event held in San Diego, California. She began playing piano at the age of 3 in China, but once she moved to America at the age of 5 with her family, she began violin lessons with her mother. At the age of 7, she began studying the cello under the instruction of her father, with both her parents forcing her to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. She then continued her professional cello studies with Slovenian cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (1925–2007), one of the most influential cellists of the 20th century (who also taught Guo’s father), at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on full scholarship.

During her freshman year, Guo started dating a guitar player of an 80’s-style classic Heavy Metal band, and after attending one of their shows one night at The Whiskey in Hollywood, she started to think about how she could incorporate the cello into the metal style, experimenting with pedals and different techniques while trying to figure out how to play the cello and sound like a guitar player. While the fingering for both instruments were virtually the same, it took her three years and many YouTube videos to figure out what she was doing. She eventually left USC in her junior year, despite having a full scholarship to attend, after she found it increasingly difficult to balance performing and going to classes. Her parents were very angry and didn’t understand her decision at the time, getting used to the idea after a while. As a matter of fact, she claims to hold a Bachelors in Metaphysical Theology with a focus on Eastern Philosphy from the International College of Metaphysical Theology, but this is an unaccredited distance learning degree mill.

Her career has reached such a complex and diverse level I’m pretty sure you’ve listened to the cello by our Asian virtuoso at least once in your lifetime in a movie score, in a video game, or in a multitude of other media platforms. Known for her distinct videos showcasing her talent against theatrical backdrops and elaborate costumes, she has already appeared in her career as a soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico, the Thessaloniki State Symphony in Greece, the Petrobras Symphony in Brazil, and the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, not to mention her participation in the Civic Youth Orchestra at the age of 10, her performance with violinist Midori Goto in Dvorak’s American String Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and her four national tours of Mexico and Italy performing the Shostakovich, Dvorak, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns Cello Concertos. Tina endorses Larsen Strings, Yamaha, Line 6, Sennheiser, Focusrite, ENGL Amps, Voodoo Lab Pedals, Coffin Case, Samson, Reunion Blues, Analysis Plus Cables and Apogee Electronics.

Among her countless other projects and appearances as a special guest musician, some of the most interesting ones are her performance with the Tenerife Symphony and Choir in the Canary Islands performing Batman: The Dark Knight; her 2017 Australian tour with an all-girl crossover band named Metaphor; her 2008 Grammy Awards performance with the Foo Fighters; her 2011-2013 tour as the featured electric cellist with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour; her performance for the League of Legends World Championship to a sold out arena at Staples Center in Los Angeles and an audience of 33 million streaming online; playing the electric cello in a super-band with The Crystal Method, Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (NIN), Joe Letz (Combichrist) and the Hollywood Scoring Orchestra; playing with Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione in a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro; performing as soloist on music from Vikings, Dexter, Game of Thrones, and Chicago Fire with the Krakow Symphony and Polish Radio Choir at the Krakow Film Music Festival; and completing an acoustic tour and two sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Blues Legend Joe Bonamassa, as you can see in the song Black Lung Heartache.

Furthermore, Tina has already shared the stage in her career with The Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Josh Groban, John Legend, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak, Il Divo, Ariana Grande, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael McDonald, among others, and has been featured as a soloist on the scores of several movies such as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Inception, Clash of the Titans, Olympus Has Fallen, Escape Plan, Sleepy Hollow, Hancock, Battle: Los Angeles, Predators and X-Men: First Class, as well as TV shows like  The Mentalist, Family Guy, American Dad, King of the Hill, commercials for Apple, Under Armour, and countless video games. As a solo artist, Tina has already released 8 albums, those being Autumn Winds and The Journey (both in 2011), Eternity (2013), Ray of Light and A Cello Christmas (both in 2014), Inner Passion (with Peter Kater) and Cello Metal (both in 2015), and more recently Game On! (2017). Furthermore, you can enjoy some very interesting videos on YouTube where Tina shows all her skills with her erhu, such as “Tina Guo plays music from Uncharted 2 on the Erhu with the GSPO”, and “Tina Guo and Michael Barry Random Jam: Danny Boy on Erhu and Piano”, or simply enjoy some of her official videos and songs like World of Warcraft, Dragonborn, Forrest Gump: Feather Theme and Genesis Rising.

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In regards to Tina’s contributions to the metal scene, she has been featured as a guest cellist in numerous distinguished bands and projects since 2009. For instance, in 2009 she played the cello in the songs The Lone Spaniard and So Far Gone, from the album Molecular Heinosity by American Progressive Metal/Rock keyboardist Derek Sherinian; in the song I Am the Nothing, from the 2014 album The Beauty of Destruction by  American Metalcore act Devil You Know (now called Light The Torch); in the 2017 album Störtebeker, by German Heavy/Power/Progressive Metal band FB1964; in the single Let Down, from the 2011 album Secret Passion by Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal group Imperia; in the song Duet for Electric Guitar and Electric Cello in A Minor, from the 2010 album Speed Force by American shredder Maxxxwell Carlisle; and in the 2015 album The Life I Remember, by American Groove Metal act Once Human.

Among her main influences in music, we’ll find the most diverse range of bands and artist like Rammstein, Jacqueline du Pre, System of a Down, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Lady Gaga, Apocalyptica, Metallica, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, just to give you an idea of how eclectic our stunning cellist is. Moreover, when asked about what music means for her, Tina said that playing music requires an intense emotional connection, and that she didn’t always have such level of creative freedom in her life due to her strict childhood with her parents, who lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution and who consequently didn’t allow her to listen to any other types of music at home besides classical music. However, it was through a critically acclaimed album by one of the aforementioned influences, the classic Antichrist Superstar by the iconic American rockstar Marilyn Manson, that she got her first taste of Industrial Metal and heavy music in general, getting to know the rebellious music by bands like Daft Punk and Guns N’ Roses from then on.

The indomitable Tina Guo is not our metal chick of the month in vain, having released in 2015 a majestic album of heavy music titled CELLO METAL, with Tina obviously on the electric cello and featuring Wes Borland and John Huldt on the guitars, Marty O’Brien (We Are The Fallen) on bass, and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz) on drums, as well as guitarists Al Di Meola, John 5 (Marilyn Manson) and Nita Strauss (The Iron Maidens). Tina and her henchmen delivered ass-kicking cello-infused cover songs for some of the biggest metal classics with this album, which by the way took around three years to be ready, those being Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, Slayer’s Raining Blood, Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and Metallica’s Sanitarium, together with five original songs (Child of Genesis, The God Particle, Eternal Night, Forbidden City and Queen Bee). By the way, Tina spent her entire life savings (a little under US$ 6,000) on the official video for Queen Bee, a metal-inspired take on the orchestral interlude “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and that risk paid off as what’s probably her “most extreme” music video to date (it got an 18+ restriction on YouTube) caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, who at that time was searching for a cellist to play on the score of Sherlock Holmes. “I wasn’t trying to get into the soundtrack world. Actually, I was hoping that Rammstein would see the video and invite me to play with them”, said our skillful cellist in one of her interviews. Anyway, you can have a very detailed listen at Cello Metal on Spotify, and see why this Asian bombshell is respected and admired by the entire world of music, including the always-demanding metal scene.

And Tina is not only an accomplished cellist, but she’s also a writer, a philanthropist and a very successful businesswoman. As a writer, her first published work was called “Event Horizons of Yin and Yang”, a collection of philosophical prose and poetry. As a philanthropist, Guo is a passionate supporter of the Academy of Music for the Blind, Partners in Health, Animal Welfare Institute, Homes for our Troops and Child Find of America. For instance, in 2015, she released a Charity album with 13 composer friends called Tina Guo & Composers for Charity, with 100% of the proceeds from the album going directly to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in support of music education. And last but not least, as a businesswoman, she runs a Los Angeles-based venture named Tina Guo Contracting, which provides exclusive musicians and entertainment for live performances, recording and corporate events; she has a sample library that composers and producers can purchase and use; and above all that, she started her own music instrument line, named Tina Guo Strings, selling custom acoustic cellos, carbon fiber cases, and colourful “unicorn hair” bows for the violin, viola, and cello, with her first products available being the Tina Guo Model 300 cello, the Tina Guo Elite Master Art Model 600 cello, and a full line of custom Tina Guo bows. As a matter of fact, she has been self-managing her career since the beginning, having only signed an exclusive recording contact with Sony Music in 2016, as she thinks it’s very important to understand the business aspect and see everything that’s going on, especially because managers are always going to have other clients they’re dealing with.

However, despite being a successful musician and entrepreneur, she hasn’t been immune to sexism yet, noting that image sells in the performing world, and as a young Asian-American woman she’s more than familiar with the challenges that come with working in these two very white male-dominated spheres. “As a performing artist, we don’t only listen with our ears”, she said in one of her interviews. “If I look different or wasn’t as young, I might have a very different experience.” You can get a sense of all the awesomeness surrounding Tina as a musician and as a woman by watching several videos on YouTube where she’s either playing her cello or talking about her career and skills, such as “Tina Guo and her troublesome cello”, an interview with Tina Guo on classical and electric cello, or a mini-tutorial on playing fast, proving she’s more-than-ready to conquer the entire world of music and arts no matter how sexist that world might be.

Gand & Bernardel Cello (Paris, France, 1878)
Custom Tina Guo Model Yamaha SVC-210
Erhu (Shangai, China)

Tina Guo’s Official Facebook page
Tina Guo’s Official Twitter
Tina Guo’s Official Instagram
Tina Guo’s Official YouTube channel

“When I make music, I am completely pure, naked, and open. I long for the moments when my outer shell no longer matters. I hunger for every genuine tear of sorrow, joy, or understanding shared. When you can hear me for who I am, and see me in a way that doesn’t involve looking at me, but rather looking through me, only then can I be satisfied.” – Tina Guo

Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

I hide you, I find you, I catch your fall…  I’ll be there when the lights go out…

She has already been involved with so many distinct bands and projects it feels like she’s a 100-year old veteran in heavy music, when in fact she’s just about to turn 39 years old. I’m talking about the unstoppable American vocalist Amanda Somerville, our metal chick of the month who’s not only a singer and songwriter, but also a vocal coach, being known primarily for her work with several renowned European Symphonic Metal bands such as Edguy, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot and After Forever, and having also produced two solos albums and two solo EP’s so far, as well as a wide range of more underground acts like Aina, Trillium and Exit Eden. also, there are countless albums and songs from other artists in the world of heavy music where you can find the stunning Amanda delivering her beautiful vocal notes, only proving how professional she is and how much other musicians admire her talent and skills as a vocalist. Having said that, are you ready to get delightfully “lost” in the world of Amanda Somerville?

Born on March 7, 1979 in Flushing, a city in Genesee County in the U.S. state of Michigan, Amanda Somerville, whose full name is Amanda Somerville-Scharf, attended Flushing Senior High School, graduating a full year early and winning a scholarship for graduating with high honors to the University of Michigan in Flint, Michigan, where she majored in psychology. In 1999 she moved from the United States to Wolfsburg, Germany, working mainly in Germany and in the Netherlands. Her voice has a wide range, but she has said herself that her tessitura is in the alto range, and if you have no idea of what that means you can take a quick look at this short and sweet explanatory video HERE. On August 19, 2013, she announced that she was engaged to be married to After Forever’s former guitarist Sander Gommans, and the pair were married in July 2014; less than one year after their marriage, on January 8, 2015, the couple announced they were expecting their first child, who was born on July 17, 2015 and named Lana Elise Gommans, and now in January the couple and little Lana were joined by the identical twins Anya Jayne and Juliet Marlies (and you can expect to hear more from Amanda and her new babies through her official blog).

Amanda has started singing from a very early age in her life, having grown up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. Furthermore, not only she had that influence and inspiration at home, but she mentioned she also had very good music mentors at elementary school, learning how to read music and play the piano at a rather young age. In addition, she said she has always dreamed about becoming a musician, and that’s all she ever wanted to do. For instance, throughout her life she has always performed in talent shows, competitions and concerts, hosting karaoke, singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money while she was in university, and even doing some appearances as a DJ. However, albeit being famous worldwide for her participation in several metal bands and projects, Amanda said that when she started her career she was a solo artist directed to the Pop Rock genre with some American folk elements. It was only when she decided to record a single with her bass player and drummer years ago that she met German guitarist, bassist and musical producer Sascha Paeth, who at that time was related to her bass player and owned a recording studio. Both Sascha and German keyboard player and musical producer Michael “Miro” Rodenberg were at the spot, helped them set up everything and listened to them performing, until they asked Amanda if she wanted to do something together with them, opening the doors of heavy music for our stunning diva. And regarding her education in music and arts in general, she said she never really studied music in a formal way, nor was she classically trained in singing. Amanda mentioned that it was her grandmother who taught her how to read music and gave her the basic foundation that she still uses for composing until today. Furthermore, as a vocal coach she was able to work with several distinguished musicians, always being open to learn from her students and to face new challenges they might bring her, therefore growing as a musician and as a person.

Trying to list every single band and project Amanda was or is still involved in Heavy Metal might be one of the toughest tasks one can try to accomplish, as she has already written and recorded with several renowned acts like the ones mentioned in the beginning of this essay about our gorgeous American vocalist, as well as her solos releases (which by the way were primarily soft and elegant Pop Rock with some Hard Rock, folk and soul music influences) and a rock opera, among other distinct endeavors. Let’s start with her solo career, with the releases of the albums In the Beginning There Was… (2000) and Windows (2008), and the EP’s Blue Nothing (2000) and Never Alone (2003), with her upcoming album Conformity Challenged to be announced soon. You can have a listen at her softer and more graceful side in songs like I Miss America and Puzzling Rapunzel, from her debut album, and Inner Whore and Sometimes, from Windows, but that’s the lightest music you’ll find in this tribute to Amanda, as from now on it’s going to be pure heavy music flowing through her veins and vocals.

Her first venture in metal was her collaboration with German multi-instrumentalist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate, Luca Turilli, Kamelot, Rhapsody of Fire), co-writing the rock opera Aina, a Symphonic and Progressive Heavy/Power Metal project featuring a number of guest appearances including Glenn Hughes, Michael Kiske and Candice Night, where the concept and lyrics were written by Amanda herself. There was only one album released under the project, the 2003 opus Days of Rising Doom (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), and don’t expect to see anything new from Aina in the short or even long-term. After Aina, she made a similar collaboration with her husband-to-be Sander Gommans, providing vocals and lyrical concept for HDK (the acronym for Hate Death Kill), a Melodic Death/Gothic Metal project with whom she released the albums System Overload, in 2009, and Serenades of the Netherworld, in 2014. Do you want to bang your head to the music by HDK? Try the songs System Overload and Mortal Zombie, one from each release by the project, and see if you like this more ferocious side of Amanda.

Perhaps her most remarkable project to date is her partnership with the iconic German vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) on a musical project entitled Kiske/Somerville, also featuring Primal Fear’s own Mat Sinner on bass and Magnus Karlsson on guitars (who by the way are the two main songwriters of the project), and Czech drummer Veronika Lukešová. In 2010, the project released their debut self-titled album, followed by another full-length release named City of Heroes, in 2015. From their debut installment, you can enjoy on YouTube songs such as Silence and If I Had A Wish, and from City of Heroes you should take a listen at Walk on Water.

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Another very interesting project by Amanda goes by the name of Trillium, a Symphonic Metal band formed in 2011 in the Netherlands (where she currently resides), featuring some of her longtime fellow musicians Sander Gommans, Sascha Paeth and Michael “Miro” Rodenberg, having released in 2011 the full-length album Alloy. She described the music by Trillium as “more like an expedition with my musical family to explore and celebrate the metamorphosis I’ve gone through as an artist over the past several years”, while the name of the band “symbolizes a trinity because things are always showing up in 3s in my environment and there are a number of triads occurring in this project, as well”. And she went on saying that “the name of the album, Alloy, is symbolic and metaphorical. An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals combined with a non-metal, intimately mixed. It also means standard; quality; fineness and is an admixture, as of good with evil. I’m a Pisces, so I’m all about duality and combining known elements – sometimes opposing each other – to create something different. Though I’ve been working myself further and further into the metal scene, I still always feel the need to add an extra element to make it shine, bling, stand out”. From Alloy, you should check the song Coward, and if you like what you hear you can enjoy the full album HERE.

In 2017, Amanda joined a new project entitled Exit Eden, featuring four female singers from the rock and metal scene from four different countries, those being Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Serenity) from France, Marina La Torraca (Highlight Kenosis, Phantom Elite) from Brazil, newcomer Anna Brunner from Germany, and obviously Amanda Somerville. The band was conceived with the plan “to show the world that almost every classic song can be transformed into a solid metal-rock song”, a concept similar to Finland’s Northern Kings, releasing in 2017 the album Rhapsodies In Black, comprised of 11 metallic versions for some of the biggest pop and rock classics like Rihanna’s Unfaithful, Depeche Mode’s A Question Of Time, Shontelle’s Impossible, Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, Backstreet Boys’ Incomplete, and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart, with the stunning Dutch goddess Simone Simons also appearing in two songs of the album, Madonna’s Frozen, Adele’s Skyfall.

Apart from all those bands and projects, Amanda has also been involved with several iconic acts either live or as a guest musician in some of their studio albums. For instance, in 2008, she toured America with Dutch Symphonic Metal icons Epica, while Simone Simons recovered from a staph infection; she was also one of the live guest vocalists for Tobias Sammet’s metal opera Avantasia world tours in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016, where she performed both backing vocals and lead vocals for a few songs; she was featured on Douglas R. Docker’s space metal opera Docker’s Guild in 2012 in a duet with Goran Edman on the debut album The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance, and again in 2016 in the Flash Gordon Suite on the album The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past; and also played the part of the “Queen of the Nile” in an album titled The Book of Gates, by a metal opera project from the Middle-East named EON, produced by Lebanese guitarist Amadeus Awad. And the list goes on and on with Amanda lending her beautiful voice to several interesting songs recorded by bands like After Forever, Edguy, Lunatica, Serenity, Wolfpakk, Shaman, DesDemon, Hollow Haze, Sebastien, Soulspell, and many, many others.

When asked about her experience working with several renowned artists such as Alice Cooper, Ian Gillan and Eric Martin due to her role in projects like Rock Meets Classic and Avantasia, Amanda answered that working with all those metal icons is always a pleasure for her, as she always enters a new situation or project with a very open mind and loves to be surprised by those artists, not to mention she also said most of them are amazing human beings. In addition, when asked which musician or artist she would love to work with in the future, Amanda mentioned some important names in music such as John Fogerty, the mastermind behind Creedence Clearwater Revival; Grace Slick, an American musician and former model, widely known in Rock N’ Roll history for her role in San Francisco’s burgeoning psychedelic music scene in the 60’s, being the voice of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Starship; and as a solo artist she would also love to work with Paul Simon and Tori Amos. As you can see although those musicians listed by Amanda are not your regular metal icons, they do have a huge influence on countless metal artists and bands from different styles, proving once again heavy music is not and can never be isolated from the rest of the world of music.

Regarding her inspirations for her music and lyrics and her full creative process, Amanda said she doesn’t really have a “normal process” as far as songwriting goes, with her songs beginning sometimes as a chorus or a verse, sometimes as just the lyrics with the body of the composition coming later, and sometimes the song will come to her from start to finish in its entirety. She complemented by saying that as a songwriter, the lyrics are of extreme importance to her, and that her songs are always very emotional because she doesn’t believe in writing or performing anything that can’t make people feel along with her. All her songs are personal-based, talking about human struggles and relationships, whether it was something she went through, a dream, or inspired by someone or something, and all being “little windows” into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville.

Last but not least, apart from all her projects and adventures in music in general, Amanda still found some time in June 2014 to be part of a German television show named Keep Your Light Shining, which aired from the end of May to June 2014 by ProSieben, singing the song Addicted To You by Avicii (and you can also see her personal message about the show HERE). She said she accepted the challenge because she enjoys getting out of her comfort zone, pushing herself to her own limits. However, the show had to make some special arrangements for her due to her touring schedule and other details, as she was only able to join their third show. Many people asked her why she was doing that, because she didn’t need it, but she said she actually wanted to participate on the show as a new experience for her. Moreover, despite the final result not being very positive for her, she said she wasn’t sad or anything like that as in the end she was the only member with a career while some of the others went backstage and cried their hearts out. What’s next for Amanda Somerville? Now with the twins she will probably take some time off from all her endeavors in heavy music, but I’m sure it won’t take long for us metalheads to have the pleasure of listening to her beautiful voice once again accompanied by some flammable guitar riffs and headbanging beats in another ass-kicking song, band or project.

Amanda Somerville’s Official Facebook page
Amanda Somerville’s Official Twitter
Amanda Somerville’s Official Instagram
Amanda Somerville’s Official YouTube channel

“I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads.” – Amanda Somerville

Album Review – Xenosis / Devour and Birth (2018)

Behold the next step in the remarkable musical evolution by one of the biggest new names of the Progressive Death Metal scene.

Hailing from New Haven, a coastal city on Long Island Sound, in Connecticut, American Progressive Death Metal legion Xenosis set out from their formation in 2010 with a precise goal in mind: To create Death Metal that blurs the lines, that draws from the past and present equally, and to continually evolve as a band from release to release. To date, they’ve lived up to that aim, and have continued to up the ante with each new musical effort put forth. After the releases of their self-titled debut EP in 2010, followed by the full-length albums Haunted Skies, in 2012, and Sowing the Seeds of Destruction, in 2015, it’s time for Xenosis to strike again with their third full-length opus, titled Devour and Birth.

On Devour and Birth, Xenosis offer the listener their characteristic Progressive Death Metal that blends old school-inspired Death Metal with a fair bit of more modern Technical Death Metal ideas, rounding out there sound with a lot of groove and some thrashy Melodic Death Metal influences as well. Given the eclectic style of Progressive Death Metal that Xenosis play, their list of influences, which includes names such as Death, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Testament, Gojira and Emperor, among others, serves as a guide of sorts that the music on Devour and Birth does not fit neatly inside one mold or style of Death Metal, and after taking a detailed listen at the entire album you’ll certainly get addicted to their intricate fusion of extreme sounds.

In the opening track, named Night Hag, a brutal wall of heavy and groovy sounds comes crushing our senses mercilessly, led by the demonic drumming by Gary Marotta and the gruesome roars by frontman Sal Bova, resulting in an extremely technical but at the same time crude sonority highly recommended for fans of the genre. Then in Army of Darkness we face total devastation with a demented level of complexity flowing from all instruments, with guitarists Kenny Bullard and Mark Lyon firing some Dream Theater-ish riffs and solos while Sal keeps growling deeper and deeper; and their onrush of Death and Groove Metal continues in full force in Delirium (Death of a God), where the bestial and utterly complex beats by Gary are flawlessly complemented by the wicked bass lines by Dave Legenhausen in a prefect representation of modern-day Progressive and Technical Death Metal.

I guess I don’t need to say Concave also sounds insanely aggressive and harmonious at the same time, with Dave and Gary making a dynamic duo from the underworld, therefore generating a fierce and vile background for Kenny and Mark to go mental with their riffs and solos. Then we have Oxidation, a mechanized bridge that reminds me of some of the weirdest tracks by Industrial Metal titans Fear Factory, revving up the engines for the heavy-as-hell Ominous Opus, full of breaks and variations to give its Death Metal core essence a demented twist, uniting the words “progressive” and “aggressive” in a fantastic manner. Put differently, simply go break your neck headbanging to the brutish riffs delivered by the band’s guitarists while Sal keeps growling like a beast.

The amazing title-track Devour and Birth takes their ferocity to a whole new level, sounding exciting form start to finish with the whole band displaying all their skills, in special Gary, Kenny and Mark, blasting sheer havoc through their sick beats and very technical shredding respectively. And the last track of the album, titled The Projector, is another hurricane of Death Metal masterfully executed by Xenosis, a circle pit-catalyst that sounds and feels very complete and detailed, being absolutely perfect for slamming into the pit during the band’s live performances.

Featuring a futuristic and menacing artwork by Brazilian graphic designer Caio Caldas (CadiesArt), Devour and Birth, which can be purchased through the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as on iTunes or on Amazon, not only cements Xenosis as one of the most interesting exponents of the current independent Progressive Death Metal scene, but it is also an album of extreme music that’s utterly recommended for all metalheads who are searching for a monumental amount of intricacy and progressiveness amidst all the chaos and destruction usually delivered in Death Metal. You can find more details about Xenosis and their elaborate music at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and keep witnessing (and of course supporting) for years to come the remarkable musical evolution this talented five-piece act has been enjoying since their beginnings.

Best moments of the album: Night Hag, Concave and Devour and Birth.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing   
1. Night Hag 6:45
2. Army of Darkness 5:14
3. Delirium (Death of a God) 5:51
4. Concave 5:15
5. Oxidation 0:54
6. Ominous Opus 5:59
7. Devour and Birth 4:28
8. The Projector 5:56

Band members
Sal Bova – vocals
Kenny Bullard – guitar
Mark Lyon – guitar
Dave Legenhausen – bass
Gary Marotta – drums

Album Review – Not My Master / Disobey EP (2018)

An aggressive mix of Thrash, Groove and Extreme Metal with Southern Rock blasted by a new four-piece act hailing from the always metallic U.S. state of Texas.

It’s time for The Headbanging Moose to head to Texas, the second-largest state in the United States by both area and population where several amazing heavy bands were born such as D.R.I., Devourment, Pissing Razors, Galactic Cowboys and, above all, the mighty Pantera, to slam into the pit to the aggressive mix of Thrash, Groove and Extreme Metal with Southern Rock blasted by a four-piece act that goes by the name of Not My Master. Playing what the band members themselves call Texas Metal, or in their own words, “dirty nasty satanic devil music you would find on Pornhub, if Pornhub played dirty nasty satanic devil music”, Not My Master are releasing their straightforward, vicious and extremely aggressive debut EP, titled Disobey.

Formed in 2016 in the city of El Paso, situated in the far western corner of Texas, the band comprised of Chris Kidwell on vocals, Chelo Styles on the guitar, Rudy Barajas on bass and Charlie Gonzalez on drums has been spreading their “Texas Fuckin’ Metal” throughout the whole state for a while, having already shared the stage with bands like Soulfly, Death Angel, Puddle Of Mudd and Rotting Christ, and also played in festivals such as Zia Music Fest, KILL This Festival, MUDD Fest and HaloHeavy Fest. With Disobey, the band not only aims at solidifying their name in the local Texan scene, but also to spread their ruthless music all over the world, effectively summarizing in its seven distinct tracks what the band is capable of offering to fans of heavy music.

The marching beats by Charlie are gradually joined by the slashing riffs by Chelo and the menacing bass punches by Rudy in the opening track, entitled Acadence, before Chris begins firing some enraged growls in a solid display of Extreme Groove Metal, perfect for fans of bands like Lamb Of God. Then the band keeps pounding our heads with their visceral music in Revenge, with lots of groove flowing from both guitar and bass while Chris switches back and forth from deep, rabid growls to clean, dark vocals, reminding me of the most obscure songs by Pantera (which obviously translates into sheer awesomeness); followed by the acid Where’s God Now, with the guitar lines by Chelo inspiring you to break your neck headbanging, not to mention how the metallic sounds blasted by all instruments increase the impact of Chris’ screams.

Then we have an eerie start to what’s the darkest composition in the EP, titled Morning Star, suddenly exploding into a heavy and aggressive hybrid of Groove and Southern Metal with hints of modern Doom Metal, led by Chris and his demented gnarls, whereas in Lies the raw and dirty guitar lines by Chelo build a demonic atmosphere for the rest of the band to blast hatred and evil in a fantastic display of Sludge Metal. Moreover, the low-tuned bass punches by Rudy sound insanely heavy, bringing even more ferocity to the overall result. And as a “bonus” don’t forget to listen to the two creepy alternative versions of this song on YouTube by clicking HERE and HERE.

Not My Master then treat us with an excellent cover version for How the Gods Kill, by Danzig (check the original version HERE), and on a side note, this classic was also covered by Polish Death/Black Metal project +MROME+ in their 2016 album Noetic Collision on the Roof of Hell (as you can see HERE). With that said, which version do you prefer? In my humble opinion, both kick some serious ass, with Not My Master sounding more melancholic in its first half before becoming a beautiful storm of Southern Metal throughout the rest of the song. And lastly, closing this obscure and very enjoyable EP we have another wicked tune named Consume, a vicious sample of what they call Texas Metal with Chelo burning our skin with his scorching hot riffs while Chris and Rudy sound like an earthquake with their growls and bass lines, respectively.

Are you curious to know more about Not My Master? I surely am, and I can’t wait to see when those Texan metallers will release their first full-length album, kicking everyone in the head with their relentless fusion of Southern and Groove Metal. You can follow Not My Master on Facebook and get to know more about the band members, their tour dates and other details, as well as listen to their music and watch their videos on ReverbNation. High-quality heavy music made in El Paso, Texas is furiously knocking at your door, but be careful because once you open it, there’s no escape from Not My Master’s vicious attack.

Best moments of the album: Revenge and Lies.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing  
1. Acadence 4:18
2. Revenge 3:08
3. Where’s God Now 3:49
4. Morning Star 5:15
5. Lies 4:38
6. How the Gods Kill (Danzig cover) 5:55
7. Consume 4:41

Band members
Chris Kidwell – vocals
Chelo Styles – guitar
Rudy Barajas – bass
Charlie Gonzalez – drums

Album Review – Sonic Prophecy / Savage Gods (2018)

Enjoy 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, courtesy of a band that has the purest form of heavy music running through their veins.

Following their 2015 release Apocalyptic Promenade, an album that combined the melody and beauty of Symphonic Power Metal while maintaining the crunch, drive and power of traditional metal, plus their 2011 debut A Divine Act of War, which had its music placed in the television series Rock n’ Lock, the video game Volgarr the Viking and Danny Trejo’s 2006 movie Vengeance, American Power Metal warriors Sonic Prophecy return in 2018 with a brand new full-length album titled Savage Gods, featuring 10 fist-pounding tracks rooted in traditional Heavy Metal melded with the symphonic beauty of Power Metal, capturing the excitement and sound of such bands as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Hammerfall and Kamelot while blending other musical styles to arrive at a sound of their own.

Officially founded in 2008 in Salt Lake City, the capital and the most populous municipality of the state of Utah, in the United States, Sonic Prophecy showcase all their passion and commitment to old school Heavy Metal in Savage Gods, with the album lyrics covering topics commonly found in heavy music, such as medieval wars, mechanized genocide and the dangers associated with extremist ideologies. “We think our fans will love this album! Savage Gods, as a record, basically combines all of the things I think people liked about our previous releases and then moves us forward into new areas musically and lyrically. For our fans, there will be no mistaking this is Sonic Prophecy, but we definitely cover some new exciting ground on this record”, commented frontman Shane Provstgaard on the album, also adding that “this is pure heavy metal with driving guitars, thundering drums, and some of what I feel is my best vocal work to date. With songs Night Terror, Unholy Blood and the album title track, we’ve really laid down a brutal sonic backdrop, along with keeping the melody, which is important to our music.”

An Iced Earth-inspired intro ignites the full-bodied title-track Savage Gods, led by the sharp axes by guitarists Darrin Goodman and Sebastian Martin while tons of epicness flow from the potent vocals by Shane. And their feast of old school metal music goes on with another amazing tune titled Night Terror, where Shane elevates the impact of his vocals to an even higher level, boosted by the beyond classic beast by drummer Matt LeFevre, followed by Unholy Blood, a song that begins in full force with a spot-on guitar solo before becoming a mid-tempo epic chant. Needless to say, this amazing song will definitely please fans of bands like Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Judas Priest, and so on.

In Dreaming Of The Storm the band brings forward darker, more introspective lines to give the sense of a storm inside our minds, with bassist Ron Zemanek making sure there’s a good amount of thunder in the given storm while Matt keeps the musicality flowing smoothly through his precise beats. Then we have the aggressive Man The Guns, an 80’s-inspired hymn with hints of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll presenting galloping bass punches, exciting double bass roars and a good amount of shredding and solos, all embraced by Shane’s enraged performance on vocals.  What else can you ask for in heavy music, right? And leaning towards Melodic Metal the band fills our ears with very harmonious lines and smooth piano notes to make the overall result bolder in Walk Through The Fire, where Matt does a great job with his rhythmic beats while Darrin and Sebastian simply kick ass with their solos; whereas A Prayer Before Battle is one of those epic songs perfect for heading into the battlefield, with Shane evoking the gods of war with his Matt Barlow-like vocals, not to mention the NWOBHM-inspired drumming by Matt, guiding us to Valhalla together with Sonic Prophecy.

Iron Clad Heart is another song with a beautiful name and endless electricity flowing from all instruments, sounding like a hybrid between the music by Iced Earth and Iron Maiden, presenting accelerated riffs and beats while Shane continues to thrive on vocals. Put differently, if you love traditional metal from the bottom of your heart, this tune is absolutely made for you. The second to last song in Savage Gods, named Man and Machine, is one of those cases where if you listen to it as an individual song you’ll certainly enjoy it a lot, but compared to the rest of the album it lacks energy and impact. The low-tuned bass lines by Ron sound amazing throughout the whole song, though, but they’re not enough for the song to keep up with the other tracks. And last but not least Sonic Prophecy goes full Power Metal in Chasing The Horizon, delivering gripping riffs and fast-paced beats that effectively support another solid performance by Shane on vocals, with some nice variations making it sound like two songs in one.

It’s time to join Sonic Prophecy’s quest for traditional Heavy Metal by following them on Facebook and listening to their music on YouTube, and of course by purchasing the excellent Savage Gods at the band’s own webshop, at the Rockshots Records’ webshop, at the JPC webshop, and also on your usual online stores iTunes and Amazon. When Shane said Savage Gods is pure Heavy Metal he wasn’t exaggerating at all; quite the contrary, he was actually being slightly modest in his comment, as this album exhales the purest form of Heavy Metal, courtesy of a band that has incandescent metal running through their veins.

Best moments of the album: Night Terror, Man The Guns, A Prayer Before Battle and Iron Clad Heart.

Worst moments of the album: Man and Machine.

Released in 2018 Rockshots Records

Track listing   
1. Savage Gods 6:44
2. Night Terror 5:38
3. Unholy Blood 5:13
4. Dreaming Of The Storm 4:55
5. Man The Guns 5:04
6. Walk Through The Fire 7:09
7. A Prayer Before Battle 5:46
8. Iron Clad Heart 5:24
9. Man and Machine 6:44
10. Chasing The Horizon 6:14

Band members
Shane Provstgaard – vocals
Darrin Goodman – guitar
Sebastian Martin – guitar
Ron Zemanek – bass
Matt LeFevre – drums

Album Review – Terror Universal / Make Them Bleed (2018)

Behold the rise of the masked fearsome foursome of modern American metal and their bloodthirsty, action-packed debut album.

Comprised of current and former members of rock and metal renowned acts such as Machine Head, Ill Niño, Soulfly and Upon A Burning Body, here comes American Horror Metal masked supergroup Terror Universal, who have been unstoppable since the band’s inception back in 2014, having released their debut EP Reign of Terror in 2015 and shared the stage alongside heavy hitters including Korn, Asking Alexandria, Papa Roach and Fear Factory, among others. Now in 2018 those masked marauders are set to release their debut full-length album Make Them Bleed via minus HEAD Records, an album that can undoubtedly be considered the musical equivalent of a slasher film due to its aggressiveness, tension, lunacy and obviously the distinctiveness and eccentricity of each of the band’s bizarre members.

Snapping from moments of intense sonic bloodletting into menacing melodic mayhem, before creeping back into the shadows to do it all over again, the fearsome foursome Plague on vocals, Thrax on the guitar, Diabolus on bass and Massacre on drums live up to the legacy of modern-day American Alternative and Groove Metal the likes of Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Five Finger Death Punch, Deftones, Disturbed and so on. Produced by the band’s own members and mixed by Eddie Wohl (Smile Empty Soul, Fuel, Ill Niño, 36Crazyfists), Make Them Bleed will become the soundtrack to your most wicked nightmares, blasting your senses with its avalanche of heavy and metallic sounds and noises.

And the monstrous quartet kicks off their freak show of metal with a ferocious tune titled Passage of Pain, where Diabolus and Massacre make sure the ambience remains as heavy, menacing and obscure as possible with their rumbling bass and drums, respectively, while Plague screams and shouts like a true beast. Then in Welcome to Hell (which you can also watch as a guitar playthrorugh and as a bass playthrough on YouTube) Plague sounds utterly enraged, while Thrax transforms his guitar into a bloodthirsty weapon, resulting in the perfect depiction of modern extreme and alternative music made in the USA; followed by Spines, where an electronic-ish intro quickly evolves into a very dark and melodic sonority that could easily be played on any radio station, but still feeling extremely heavy. Featuring guest musician John Moyer (Disturbed) on bass, this can be called “a love song crafted by monsters”, sounding somehow romantic and violent at the same time.

Taking their animosity to a much higher level, Terror Universal bring forth the title-track Make Them Bleed, with the amazing low-tuned punches by Diabolus making the whole song more impactful. Moreover, its neck-breaking rhythm is effectively boosted by Plague’s demented growls, turning it into their personal hymn of sheer rage against everything and everyone, perfect for “spreading the violence” and “fucking the world” as Plague himself screams during the song. Then in Through the Mirrors they engage in their most Slipknot/Stone Sour-inspired mode, with the sick beats by Massacre guiding the musicality while Plague fires his crisp, acid vocals, not to mention Thrax and his cutting riffs; followed by the excellent Dig You A Hole with its gripping pace and vocal lines, enhanced by the fierce circus-like beats by Massacre and the song’s spot-on backing vocals. This is definitely one of the best new Alternative/Nu Metal songs you can find out there, making us bang our heads like maniacs without even noticing together with those four masked beasts.

Featuring the unstoppable Tony Campos (Fear Factory, Ministry, Soulfly, Static-X) on bass, who ends up giving the overall sound an Industrial Metal-like vibe with his crushing bass lines, Dead on Arrival is an excellent option for the band’s live performances to make everyone jump up and down together with them, whereas Into Darkness offers the listener another blast of their modern-day Horror Metal, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album. Let’s say that it’s not a bad tune, but those freaks of nature sound way too “docile” in this case. On the other hand, their most savage and bestial mode arises in a great explosion of Groove and Thrash Metal named Your Time Has Come, with Thrax and Diabolus leading the carnage with their razor-edged strings, before Piece by Piece concludes the album like a bulldozer, with its metallic sounds penetrating deep inside our ears while Plague alternates between growling like a demon and firing his keen clean vocals.

In summary, if you enjoy modern American metal with an extra dosage of insanity and fury, all wrapped up by the grim and monstrous faces of Terror Universal, you’ll certainly have a good time listening to the music from Make Them Bleed. You can face those four creatures from hell anytime through their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of the album through their BandCamp page, through their Pledge Music page, on iTunes or on Amazon. Just make sure you’re in good shape and ready to rock to the sound of Terror Universal because, you know, you won’t be dealing with regular people, but with rabid monsters of modern metal eager to taste your blood.

Best moments of the album: Welcome to Hell, Make Them Bleed and Dig You A Hole.

Worst moments of the album: Into Darkness.

Released in 2018 minus HEAD Records

Track listing    
1. Passage of Pain 3:57
2. Welcome to Hell 3:41
3. Spines (feat. John Moyer) 3:18
4. Make Them Bleed 3:32
5. Through the Mirrors 4:10
6. Dig You A Hole 4:35
7. Dead on Arrival (feat. Tony Campos) 3:34
8. Into Darkness 4:17
9. Your Time Has Come 3:21
10. Piece by Piece 3:06

Band members
Plague – vocals
Thrax – guitars
Diabolus – bass
Massacre – drums

Guest musicians
John Moyer – bass on “Spines”
Tony Campos – bass on “Dead on Arrival”

Album Review – Butcher Babies / Lilith (2017)

The most dangerous and relentless demons of heavy music return with another crisp, visceral and fun album of present-day Metalcore.

As I said in our Metal Chick of the Month dedicated to the Butcher Babies in October 2016 celebrating three years of The Headbanging Moose, frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey definitely know how to properly rumble, and now with the release of Lilith, their third full-length album, this Los Angeles-based Metalcore act spearheaded by those two gorgeous growlers more than cements their name in modern metal music. And don’t get fooled by their stunning looks, as Heidi and Carla can rip your heart out in the blink of an eye, just to show you how visceral and vibrant their music is.

After the release of the excellent Take It Like A Man, in 2015, an album that’s utterly entertaining from start to finish, fans of the Butcher Babies kept wondering if Heidi and Carla, together with Jason Klein on bass, Henry Flury on guitars and newcomer Chase Brickenden on drums would be able to deliver the same amount of aggressiveness and electricity that led them to play alongside giants like Marilyn Manson, Danzig, Rob Zombie and Cradle of Filth since the band’s inception, and for our total delight Lilith not only kicks some serious ass, but it also brings a more melodic side of the Butcher Babies that add an extra layer of intricacy and quality to their always fun compositions.

Now simply hit play and feel the metallic riffs by Henry crushing your skull before the dynamic duo Heidei and Carla begin their growling feast in Burn the Straw Man, not only a circle pit-generator with a catchy chorus and pure rage flowing from all instruments, but also a fantastic choice for opening their live concerts in full force. Following that flawless start we have the title-track Lilith, bringing their trademark ferocity infused with more melodic lines (mainly found in their cleaner vocals), with Chase proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new drummer; and Headspin, an almost-radio-friendly tune presenting a heavy but extremely sexy rhythm that will put you to dance and sing along with the band. Moreover, as a “bonus” the song got a lustful official video that deals with virtual reality (aka virtual sex) that’s definitely worth a watch. And in Korova the band gets back to a more underground Metalcore sonority, with Henry, Jason and Chase doing a solid job by supporting the screams by Carla and Heidi, all boosted by the song’s absolutely addictive chorus.

The beyond electrified #Iwokeuplikethis offers pure madness blasted by the entire band, with Chase sounding beastly on drums while our charming screamers fire some demented gnarls and deep growls nonstop. Things slow down a bit in The Huntsman, a dark Metalcore semi-ballad with hints of Alternative and Groove Metal which never really takes off despite the awesome rumbling bass lines by Jason, but everything returns to normal (if the Butcher Babies can be called “normal”) in Controller, a song that can be considered “old school Butcher Babies” by presenting all elements that made them famous in heavy music. Furthermore, its groovy and metallic tones are tailored for jumping up and down and breaking our necks headbanging with the band. And Oceana is another shot of insanity by Heidi and Carla, with the first firing her more strident screeches while the latter keeps growling deeper and deeper. In addition, Henry nails it with his crisp riffs, increasing the impact of the song to our ears.

In Look What We’ve Done we have more of their more melodic and commercial version (which means it should receive some decent air play in several radio stations), with both girls kicking ass with their potent clean vocals. And although they’re also great when singing smoother songs, I personally prefer their more enraged mode like what happens in POMONA (Shit Happens), a song that will cause some serious bruises inside the circle pit. Both girls sound demented throughout the entire song led by the frantic riffs and beats by Henry and Chase, respectively, turning it into one of the best songs of the whole album. And Underground and Overrated, the closing tune in Lilith, will pierce your ears with Henry’s cutting guitar riffs and solos and Heidi and Carla’s hellish screams. This is what I would call a “festival song”, being more than perfect for those open air festivals that happen all over Europe and North America during the summer.

Lilith might be known as a dangerous demon of the night who is sexually wanton (and who steals babies in the darkness), but from now on she will also be known as the Butcher Babies’ bitch, because no woman in metal can top Heidi and Carla in terms of stamina, fury and passion for the more alternative side of Heavy Metal. If I were you, I would certainly keep an eye on their Facebook page for their tour dates to promote Lilith (which by the way can be purchased through several different platforms, and if you’re lucky enough you might be able to find the Japanese edition with five sick bonus tracks), because as a guy that has already seen Heidi, Carla & Co. live I can assure you their concerts are insanely enjoyable. And needless to say, the Butcher Babies will keep on rocking and showing their love for heavy music until the end as true metalheads that they are.

Best moments of the album: Burn the Straw Man, Headspin, #Iwokeuplikethis and POMONA (Shit Happens).

Worst moments of the album: The Huntsman.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Burn the Straw Man 4:05
2. Lilith 3:27
3. Headspin 3:32
4. Korova 4:05
5. #Iwokeuplikethis 3:01
6. The Huntsman 3:06
7. Controller 3:04
8. Oceana 3:32
9. Look What We’ve Done 3:35
10. POMONA (Shit Happens) 3:13
11. Underground and Overrated 3:59

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
12. Beer Drinker & Hell Raisers 2:54
13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away 3:16
14. Don’t Give A Fuck 2:22
15. Crazy Horses 2:55
16. Pussy Whipped 2:32

Band members
Heidi Shepherd – vocals
Carla Harvey – vocals
Henry Flury – guitar
Jason Klein – bass
Chase Brickenden – drums

Album Review – The Earth And I / The Candleman (2017)

Close your eyes and enjoy the first of two sister albums by this talented American band, introducing you to their unique fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Playing a mix of groovy, moody, syncopated metal and more upbeat, accessible rock tunes inspired by bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders and TesseracT, American Progressive Rock/Metal metallers The Earth And I (also known as TEAI, pronounced /tay/) are releasing their debut full-length album, titled The Candleman, the first of two sister albums (with the second one, named The Curtain, being scheduled for an early 2018 release). Featuring seven tracks through the course of 35 minutes, The Candleman will not only introduce you to the world of TEAI, but present to you in great fashion their unique music heavily focused on a fusion of groove-oriented sounds and captivating storytelling lyrics.

Formed in 2013 in the city of Warwick, New York, in the United States by guitarists Daniel Siew and Liam Zintz-Kunkel, drummer Suss Mackenzie and bassist Nick Petromilli, who were later joined by neo-soul vocalist Kendyle Wolven in 2017, TEAI aim at filling a serious need in the Progressive Metal world for non-operatic female vocals with The Candleman and The Curtain. Displaying a minimalist and classy artwork designed by the band’s own guitarist Daniel Siew, The Candleman definitely succeeds in bringing that vocal variation desired by TEAI to their metal music, effectively helping the band make a name for themselves in underground Progressive and Groove Metal.

The beautifully-titled atmospheric intro The Lake Under the Desert warms up the listener for the groovy and thunderous I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone), a powerful tune where Daniel, Liam and Nick create a wave of rumbling sounds with their strings, setting the stage for the mesmerizing vocals by Kendyle to shine brighter than the sun. Moreover, the song brings moments of hope flawlessly blended with passages full of anger, resulting in a full-bodied Progressive Metal experience for our senses enhanced by its poetic lyrics (“In the harbor, / the ship had turned to stone. / They watched from the Belfry, / long bones, and cold and unsound, / their skin drawn tight / over emaciated forms.”). Then in II. Little Frames, a more obscure, introspective creation by TEAI, the fiery Kendyle keeps blasting her potent vocals in a beautiful paradox with the harsh growls by Nick, with the musicality alternating between more technical Progressive Metal and rowdy Groove Metal. Put differently, simply close your eyes and let this feast of contrasting sounds penetrate deep inside your soul.

In the interesting And Now for a Slight Departure the band adds elements from Ska and Punk to their music, creating an upbeat vibe led by the high-pitched vocals by Kendyle and the rhythmic and precise beats by Adam, resulting in what can be considered a  more “radio-friendly” version of TEAI; while in Sugar High they get back to a darker sonority, with Daniel, Liam and Nick once again doing an amazing job with their axes, sounding like the bastard son of Dream Theater with Evanescence, but also presenting elements from Alternative Metal and Hard Rock to spice things up a bit.

Then as a break from all their groovy and wicked sounds TEAI offer us all a serene ballad named The Hollow Deluge, with Kendyle passionately (and effectively) declaiming its pensive words (“I stand before the most cloudy of waters. / I survey the scene with reserved apprehension. / There’s something not right here, like I’ve been here before. / It’s strangely familiar. / It’s almost uncomfortably comfortable.”), all boosted by the electricity that rises in the last part of the song, flowing into a climatic ending. And as the icing on the cake we have Skies Like Fences, bringing forward over 7 minutes of intricate drumming, metallic and extremely groovy bass lines, flammable guitar solos, deranged growls and endless energy, or in other words, an extravaganza of Progressive Metal once again led by Kendyle and her charming voice.

You can enjoy The Candleman in its entirety on YouTube or on Spotify, follow TEAI on Facebook, and buy your favorite version of the album through the band’s own BandCamp or webstore (in digipak or MP3 format, as well as on iTunes and on Amazon. In a nutshell, TEAI set the bar really high for themselves with The Candleman, but of course if they keep doing what they’re capable of in The Curtain next year, which is delivering high-end metal with a strong progressive vein, I’m sure all of us fans of Progressive Metal will be more than happy when their second album is released, just like how we are now with The Candleman.

Best moments of the album: I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) and Skies Like Fences.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. The Lake Under the Desert 0:56
2. I. CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone) 4:34
3. II. Little Frames 8:35
4. And Now for a Slight Departure 4:05
5. Sugar High 4:06
6. The Hollow Deluge 5:01
7. Skies Like Fences 7:37

Band members
Kendyle Wolven – lead vocals
Daniel Siew – guitar, vocals
Liam Zintz-Kunkel – guitar
Nick Petromilli – bass, vocals
Adam Susskind – drums

Album Review – Temptation’s Wings / Skulthor Ebonblade (2017)

Follow the epic adventures of the mighty warrior Skulthor, told by a relentless American power trio through their vibrant fusion of Stoner and Southern Metal.

Hailing from the mountains of North Carolina, in the United States, more specifically from the city of Asheville, here comes a bludgeoning power trio known as Temptation’s Wings, who since the band’s inception in 2005 has been blasting an old school fusion of Stoner and Southern Metal full of raw power, crushing riffs and epic vocals with influences ranging from Amon Amarth to ZZ Top, from Candlemass to Iced Earth, and so on. All that passion for heavy music culminated with the release of a demo titled Destruction of Another Dimension, in 2010, and the EP’s WarMallet: An EP of Brutality, in 2011, and Legends of the Tusk, in 2013, leading the band to play several concerts in support of their releases, including opening for metal legends Iced Earth in their hometown’s biggest venue, The Orange Peel. However, it’s now in 2017 that the trio aims at spreading their metallic wings over the entire world with the release of their debut full-length album, the rip-roaring Skulthor Ebonblade.

Showcasing a comic-inspired artwork by Minneapolis-based artist David Paul Seymour (the “Artist of Doom”), Skulthor Ebonblade is a doom-thrashing sonic representation of battles, berserkers, bizarre beasts and bashing skulls by the trio comprised of Micah on vocals and guitars, Chad on bass and Jason on drums, who above all things love to tell us epic tales of bloodshed and conquest through their music. With each one of its songs being a crushing narrative of brutality from start to finish, Skulthor Ebonblade can be considered a concept album that keeps the level of epicness and adventure always at the highest possible level. Having said that, simply grab your sword, ax and shield and head into the battlefield together with Temptation’s Wings to the sound of the glorious anthems found in the album’s 48 minutes of unrelenting metal.

Blazing fires in the intro Burning of Hjalmar warn the listener a monumental war of Sludge and Stoner Metal is about to begin in I’ Destroyer, where Micah and Chad build a wall of sound with their strings, being powerfully joined by Jason and his smashing beats. In addition, Micah impersonates the main character of the story in a gripping manner, while Chad and his bass sound as thunderous as they can be throughout the entire song. And the rumbling tunes by Chad kick off another heavy and potent creation by Temptation’s Wings entitled Into the Maelstrom, presenting top-tier Southern Doom with an epic atmosphere in the background, together with faster passages interspersed with darker, slower moments that end up turning it into a full-bodied experience for the listener.

And it seems that the skies are getting darker and darker as the music in Skulthor Ebonblade evolves, which is the case in To Forge a Legend (Ulfbehrt). Micah fires spot-on enraged vocals in perfect sync with the pounding drums by Jason, exhibiting a more melodic side of Temptation’s Wings with highlights to its sustained epic vibe. Then we’re treated to one of the most thrilling, razor-edged chants of the whole album, Lair of the Gorgon Queen, where Micah not only slashes our ears with his riffs, but his vocal performance is beyond heroic and vibrant. Furthermore, this flammable chant is also full of breaks, variations and nuances of several different music styles, not to mention Micah’s fantastic guitar solos; followed by Treachery of the Blind Raven, which by the way has a superb name for a metal song, where they continue their quest for Southern Metal in great fashion, with guitar and bass sounding as metallic as they can be and with all spaces being filled with the dense sounds of all instruments.

Witches of Dredmoor offers our avid ears almost 10 minutes of melancholic passages, low-tuned bass punches and passionate performances by all band members (in special Micah with his gripping story-telling vocal lines). It’s by far the darkest of all songs, presenting more of their stunning guitar solos and rhythmic beats to make the whole composition even more exhilarating; before the closing tune of the album, titled My Name Was Skulthor, brings forward an anguished anti-hero Skulthor with his dark thoughts and evil feelings consuming his mind, with all that negativity flowing from the song’s low-tuned bass lines and obscure vocals. There’s no happiness in sight, only the melancholy and sadness of a fallen warrior beautifully turned into first-class Doom Metal by Temptation’s Wings, concluding the album majestically. Actually, if you buy the CD version of the album, you get as a nice bonus from the band a 2-minute acoustic instrumental track named Solitude (inserted between “Lair of the Gorgon Queen” and “Treachery of the Blind Raven”), a simple but very positive extra touch to the album in my opinion.

You can take a detailed listen at Skulthor Ebonblade on YouTube, follow the band on Facebook, and purchase the epic, rumbling adventures of Temptation’s Wings through their BandCamp page or official website, as well as on iTunes. Although no one truly knows what lies ahead for Skulthor, we all know for sure that, no matter what destiny brings to our fallen warrior, the skillful minstrels of Heavy Metal known as Temptation’s Wings will be there to tell us another gripping story of violence, death and revenge through their kick-ass music.

Best moments of the album: I’ Destroyer, Lair of the Gorgon Queen and My Name Was Skulthor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Burning of Hjalmar 1:24
2. I’ Destroyer 7:03
3. Into the Maelstrom 6:25
4. To Forge a Legend (Ulfbehrt) 7:46
5. Lair of the Gorgon Queen 6:03
6. Treachery of the Blind Raven 4:40
7. Witches of Dredmoor 9:40
8. My Name Was Skulthor 6:44

CD bonus track
6. Solitude 2:18

Band members
Micah – vocals, guitars
Chad – bass
Jason – drums