Metal Chick of the Month – Mia Wallace

Hecate awaits where crossroads split…

If there’s a woman that loves heavy music from the bottom of her (darkened) heart, more specifically our always controversial and blasphemous Black Metal, as well as music in general, that lady has to be the unrelenting Italian-born bassist Mia Wallace, who you’ll also find in several bands and projects under the names Michelle Mia Wallace, Mia W. Wallace, White Wallace or even Winter Wallace. As a matter of fact, either being a coincidence or not, the name Mia Wallace was given to the fictional character portrayed by the stunning Uma Thurman in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino cult movie Pulp Fiction, just to give you an idea of how mysterious, sexy and provocative our metal chick of the month of May can be, exactly how we expect from any true Black Metal musician. Known for her work in distinguished metal projects such as The True Endless (under the controversial moniker Soulfucker), Abbath, Triumph of Death and Niryth, among several others, Mia will undoubtedly hypnotize you with her obscure looks and smash your senses with her thunderous bass, proving once and for all Black Metal is and will always be home for some of the most talented women in the history of music.

Born somewhere, sometime in the always gorgeous Italy, Mia Wallace started playing bass in the now distant year of 1994. She said in one of her interviews that her boyfriend at the time, Italian multi-instrumentalist Marco De Rosa (R.I.P.), also known as simply M., who would become her bandmate in distinct bands and projects and best friend for over 25 years, encouraged her to try his white Fender Squier Vintage bass. She mentioned it was extremely heavy, but she immediately became passionate about that amazing instrument. Her first bass was then a four-string Hoyer SG-type from 1970, helping Mia become most probably the first female bass player in the entire Italy to wear corpsepaint, to play Black Metal on stage, and to perform fire-breathing during her live concerts. Among her gear, you’ll find some amazing stuff such as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird, the BC Rich Beast and the Clover BassTard bass guitars; the Boss ODB-3, Boss DD-3 and Marshall Reflector RF-1 effects; and the Warwick Profet 5.2 amps.

There are several bands and projects where you can enjoy Mia kicking some serious ass with her rumbling bass, and in order to tell you a little about each one of those let’s start with the most recent or active ones and then move on to her previous bands which have either disbanded or have been put on an indefinite hiatus. Right now, we can say Mia is involved in two main projects, those being an Italian Electronic/Industrial/Alien/Darkwave Pop/Rock project entitled Kirlian Camera, where not only she plays bass but also keyboards (also doing backing vocals), and a mysterious Swiss project that goes by the name of Niryth, where she’s a co-founder, songwriter and lead bassist. There might be a third project which could be called her solo band Mia Wallace, but as there’s nothing online anywhere about it let’s just say there’s no reason for extending the topic on it.

Anyway, her role with Kirlian Camera (which name was taken from what’s known as Kirlian photography, a collection of photographic techniques used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges) obviously goes beyond her usual bass playing duties, providing a unique support to the band’s mastermind Angelo Bergamini and frontwoman Elena Alice Fossi during their live performances. The band was founded in the distant year of in 1979 in the city of Parma by Angelo Bergamini and was a pioneering act of the Italian synthpop scene, featuring musicians from four distinct locations (Piombino, Marciana, Parma and Novara, all in Italy), and after a few ups and downs the duo now shares the stage with obviously Mia and other renowned musicians form the Italian scene such as Alessandro Comerio, Davide Mazza and Falk Pitschk. Having released a good amount of albums since their inception, starting with their 1983 debut effort It Doesn’t Matter Now until their most recent installment Hellfire, released in 2019, the project has always pushed the boundaries of experimental and electronic music, winning several awards through the years, with Mia bringing her share of heaviness and creativity to the band on stage. You won’t be able to listen to Mia in any of their studio albums, of course, but you can certainly enjoy some awesome live footage on YouTube such as this soundcheck in 2018 at a festival in Switzerland, this live version of the song V2K in Leipzig, Germany in 2020, or this 30-minute footage of the band live in Torino, Italy in 2018 playing some of their songs such as Holograms, Black August and News.

Her other project is considerably unique and I can’t even say if it’s still going on or if it has been archived by its band members. I’m talking about Nyrith, a distinguished metal project founded by Mia together with the one and only Tom. G Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Fost, Trypticon) with tastes of heavy and obscure doom, blending different styles from the music by Sisters of Mercy to Pink Floyd, all performed by not only one, not two, but three bass players. In one of her interviews Mia mentioned that Nyrith were ready to release their debut album depicting their visions of life and death, their struggles and pains, but so far nothing has been made official yet. She also said the idea of Nyrith came from Tom after Mia was left without a band a few years ago (and we’ll talk more about that later), including the idea of having three bass players on the same band, as at that time nobody was comfortable giving a woman the control of a new or existing band. In this project, Mia mentioned she was working on all the music which was refused by her previous band, a very restricted and traditional Black Metal act by the way, with all of her ideas being pretty much outside the Black Metal world. As aforementioned, there’s nothing officially released up to now, but we should all keep an eye on Nyrith as this is a very promising metal project (if it truly happens one day, of course). In addition, as an accomplished bass player, Mia has been asked several times about her technique, about how she enjoys playing bass and other nice-to-know details. For instance, when questioned about the fact she would play a five-string bass with Nyrith, she said that “I’ve been playing four-string basses for 20 years, but with Niryth, it is absolutely essential to play five-string bass, as the music requires far more versatility. I always felt good vibes with BC Rich basses. Among my favorite basses is a BC Rich Beast, in fact.”

Now it’s time to talk about all of her previous bands, starting with the one that’s in my opinion her most interesting and powerful project to date, Italian Black Metal horde The True Endless, founded in 1997 by M. and Mia (under the moniker Pollon, and later under her most controversial moniker Soulfucker) with the main goal of crafting violent and trendkiller music. After a couple of rehearsal tapes and some shows, The True Endless recorded their first studio work in 1999 called The Trendkiller EP, followed by an array of EP’s, splits, compilations, livr albums and obviously some very interesting and heavy-as-hell full-length albums, those being Wings of Wrath (2003), A Climb to Eternity (2005), Buried by Time and Dust (2006), 1888 from Hell (2008), An Year in Black (2009), Legacy of Hate (2013), and last but not least, Blacklight Inferno (2017), all with Mia kicking ass on bass and even working in the mastering of their 2008 album 1888 from Hell. Featuring lyrics in English, Italian and Novaras, a dialect of the Piedmontese language (Piemontèis) that was used to give their sound a more ancestral feeling, the scorching Black Metal played by The True Endless led the band to share the stage with some of the most important names of the extreme music scene such as Marduk, Deicide, Vader, Helheim, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Besatt, Morrigan, Vesna, Mortuary Drape, Opera IX and many more, playing through countless countries across Europe. You’ll “only” be able to find their latest released Blacklight Inferno on their official BandCamp page, but you can enjoy several of their songs and live footage by visiting their official YouTube channel (as well as other channels), as for example their cover version for Hellhammer’s classic Massacra, the songs Pale Waves, Under The Horned Waning Moon, Black Swamp, I Drink The Devil’s Blood and Nightfall, and this live version of Freezing Moon in the Czech Republic in 2011.

Unfortunately, after months fighting against a deadly cancer, the multi-talented M. sadly passed away on November 16, 2017 at the age of 43, and due to such tragic loss Mia and the band’s drummer Algol decided to end the project after 20 years of intense activity. However, as Mia herself always says, “the flame will burn forever.” And the skillful M. was also the founder of many other amazing projects such as Darkness, Huggin, Skoll and Teuta, most of them featuring our dauntless Mia on bass and/or on keyboards, and usually under the moniker Pollon. For instance, she played bass on the 2013 album Anti Human Life, by Italian Black/Thrash Metal band Darkness, on the 1998 demo Tales (from the Ancient Times), by Italian Black Metal horde Huginn, and played keyboards on the 1999 album Through the Mist We Come Back and on the 2000 split Keep Alive Your Heathenfolk/La oss slakte Guds lam, both by Italian Pagan Black/Viking Metal band Skoll. After listening to such amazing bands, we must all agree with Mia that the flame of M. will always burn bright through his classy and dark music across the centuries, no doubt about that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another memorable moment in Mia’s undisputed career happened between 2019 and 2020 when she joined the iconic Norwegian Black Metal act Abbath, spearheaded by one of the co-founders of Immortal, one of the trailblazers of the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene. When asked about how the invitation to join Abbath in 2019 happened, Mia said that she always been part of the Bergen family, and as Abbath needed a strong figure to replace his previous bassist he noticed her as an experienced musician who would fit perfectly into his lineup. Mia was the bass player in Abbath’s latest opus, his 2019 album Outstrider, and you can enjoy her thunderous and menacing bass lines in songs like Harvest Pyre and Calm in Ire of Hurricane. Mia mentioned Outstrider was pretty much written when she joined the band, with Abbath asking her to write the bass lines and then they decided together about some adjustments on them, also saying that she didn’t feel any real pressure as the replacement of one of the most recognizable bassist in Black Metal, the iconic King ov Hell (God Seed, Gorgoroth), as they’re two musicians with different skills that were not actually competing nor anything like that. However, on January 28, 2020, Mia revealed that she was no longer part of the band, being informed over the phone by the Abbath’s manager shortly before the beginning of the Outstrider 2020 European tour. No formal announcement was made by the band, but she was replaced on bass by touring member, Rusty Cornell. As you can check HERE, Mia was not happy about the way things happened. “I am disappointed that none of my former colleagues have contacted me in this process except for the five minute phone call from Abbath’s manager in which I was told I would no longer be needed. I was told not to contact anyone in the band. The explanation for this had no substance and just made more questions and confusion for me. Up until then I had been preparing for the European tour as I had been told to do. I had to cancel other plans, and get time off work for the tour which I spent much time preparing for,” said Mia, also citing her comments to the media after the disastrous Abbath two-song concert in Argentina in 2019 as one of the probable reasons for being fired from the band.

Another amazing project where we were all able to enjoy Mia’s crushing bass lines between 2018 and 2019 was Tom G. Warrior’s Triumph Of Death, a tribute to his former group Hellhammer, consisting of playing the legendary music by Hellhammer from their  three demos (Death Fiend, Triumph of Death and Satanic Rites) and the EP Apocalyptic Raids onstage after 37 years, starting in the summer of 2019. According to Tom and Mia, Triumph of Death is a Zurich, Switzerland-based open-ended project playing only select concerts and festivals, basically choosing the songs from the band’s small but rich catalog depending on how they felt at that moment, always open to change from time to time. When asked about how she felt playing those songs together with Tom and therefore continuing the legacy of one of the pioneers of Black Metal, she said it was a true honor for her as she’s been highly influenced by Hellhammer throughout her entire career, and you can see how happy Mia truly was by watching her interviews together with Tom in 2019 at some of the best metal festivals in the world such as Hellfest, Wacken Open Air and Brutal Assault, always talking about how it feels to play with Triumph of Death, the legacy of Hellhammer and why the name Hellhammer wasn’t used, as well as performing at the same time with Tom and Abbath. In addition, if you want to experience the music by Triumph of Death live, you can check some awesome live footage on YouTube such as the song Vision of Mortality at Kilkim Žaibu (the biggest ancient traditions and Extreme Metal festival in the Baltic States), Blood Insanity at Hellfest, Triumph of Death in Essen, Germany, or this full concert at Psycho Fest in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States.

Lastly, there’s one more metal project that’s worth mentioning, which is Swiss Goregrind/Death Metal band Embalming Theatre, where Mia didn’t play bass or keyboards, but instead she was the one responsible for crafting the intros and outros to pretty much all of their releases from 2000 until 2006, such as the intro, intermezzo and outro to the 2003 album Sweet Chainsaw Melodies, and the intro to the 2004 split Death Metal Karaoke/My Flesh Creeps at Insects. One curious thing is that if you go to the band’s official BandCamp page you’ll notice most of the albums there do not contain the intros and outros by Mia, and I have absolutely no idea why those pieces are missing. Anyway, Embalming Theatre are a very entertaining Goregrind act, with all of their albums being worth a shot with or without Mia’s insane collaboration.

Regarding her main influences and idols in music and in life in general, as mentioned a couple of times already she sees the iconic Tom G. Warrior as her master and mentor, even saying that “he is the one who unleashed the dormant beast inside me.” Without him, Mia said she would not have been able to effectively express her music and her creativity, complementing by saying her writing and composing process is very similar to his due to the huge influence his music has always had on her since her childhood, even before knowing him in person.  According to our badass bassist, there would be no Black Metal without Tom, with his classic bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost being obviously among her favorite metal acts of all time. Mia also mentioned in some of her interviews the huge influence she also had from Abbath himself, whose real name is Olve Eikemo, always acknowledging the humongous importance his former band Immortal has always had on the birth and evolution of our beloved Norwegian Black Metal. I guess even after being fired from Abbath’s solo band the way it happened, Mia still sees him as a legend and as a true inspiration, and I’m sure she’ll always keep those moments onstage with him among her best memories in her musical career. Furthermore, in regards to bass players, Mia always mentions the enigmatic and multi-talented Peter Steele (R.I.P.), the lead singer, bassist and composer for Gothic Metal band Type O Negative, as her personal bass hero, but she also said she has always been fascinated by the onstage charisma of Martin Eric Ain (R.I.P.), the former bassist for Extreme Metal titans Celtic Frost, proving Mia definitely knows how to choose her music idols.

Finally, as much as we all see Mia as the talented and indestructible Black Metal bass player that she is, needless to say she’s also a human being like the rest of us, having to handle her own issues and struggles just like any regular person. As you can see in this article by Blabbermouth from the end of February, Mia mentioned in a special and very personal Facebook post that the past few months have been the been the darkest and most painful period of her life, with all recent events leaving her physically and emotionally destroyed. “I tried to face hell trying not to crack, always holding hard in front of events which, daily, were destroying my soul and my emotions, unfortunately, also physically, by pushing up that strong Mia everyone knows,” she wrote, complementing that by saying that “these terrible experiences are always destructive, but they also left a positive note: the ability to see who stayed, who, day after day, try to be close to me, without judging me or making me feel wrong, without making me feel the weight of my reactions dictated by despair, but simply making me feel that even though Mia is going through a negative phase, something good in her is still there, holding my hands and telling me that it will pass, listening to my pain, drying my tears and looking for the best way not to make me collapse.These people are the people who love me, my family, the people to whom my gratitude and love will remain as long as I am alive, and to whom I will give all of myself, with my strength and, unfortunately, flaws.” Those were the honest and austere words by “the imperfect” Mia, who we all wish a quick and healthy recovery and, of course, who we wish to see on stage smashing our skulls with her thunderous bass as soon as possible.

May 6, 2020 UPDATE: As you can see HERE, the unrelenting Mia Wallace has just been announced as the new bass player for Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal band Nervosa! The band’s mastermind Prika Amaral couldn’t have made a better choice to take care of their bass duties! Congratulations, Mia!

Mia Wallace’s Official Facebook page
Mia Wallace’s Official Instagram
Mia Wallace’s Official Twitter

“As I have often been wont to do, I’ll quote Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ That has always been my modus vivendi.” – Mia Wallace

Album Review – Amon Amarth / Berserker (2019)

Raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you together with the Swedish Vikings of Heavy Metal.

My fellow Vikings, it’s time to grab your swords, axes, spears and shields and head into the battlefield once again to the sound of Berserker, the eleventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal horde Amon Amarth and a huge step forward in terms of energy and creativity if compared to their previous album Jomsviking, released in 2016. Not only that, Berserker is also the band’s first album to feature Jocke Wallgren on drums, who joined the band in 2016, bringing thunder to the compositions by frontman Johan Hegg and his loyal henchmen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg on the guitars and Ted Lundström on bass.

Featuring another epic artwork by American artist Brent Elliott White, Berserker brings to our ears pure, straightforward Amon Amarth with no artificial elements, sounding very dense, cohesive and, above all, extremely entertaining from start to finish. Furthermore, while saying that Berserker is not a concept album, Johan Hegg also stated that “it’s also about sticking together in the face of adversity. Then there’s more introverted stuff, as well – songs that relate to my private life, and I got the ideas for those songs from my wife.” In the end, all song work really well, sounding connected albeit each one on its own when you listen to the album in full, therefore providing you a smooth and powerful experience only hardworking bands like Amon Amarth can offer.

The acoustic guitar by guest Javier Reyes (from Animals as Leaders) ignite the heavy and vibrant Fafner’s Gold, with Jocke showing why he became a permanent member of the band. In a nutshell, it’s classic Amon Amarth with an extra kick coming from the flammable riffs by Olavi and Johan Söderberg, while in Crack the Sky it’s time to bang our heads together with the band while Johan Hegg leads the horde with his raspy roars in a mid-tempo extravaganza tailored for enjoying a cold pint of mead. Then slashing guitar sounds kick off another hard-hitting tune named Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, which can’t get any more Viking than what it already is with its pounding beats, crisp guitar solos and Johan’s deep growls, turning it into a must-listen for all fans of the genre; followed by Shield Wall, a true battle hymn spearheaded by the band’s most fearful Viking, Mr. Johan Hegg, vociferating the song’s catchy and inspiring chorus powerfully (“War / Here to conquer, battle ready, no retreat / Vikings / Raise the shield wall / Hold the front line / Fight till death”). Needless to say, this can easily become a fan-favorite during their live concerts.

Let’s keep the fires of Viking Metal burning bright in Valkyria, showcasing a beautiful job done by the band’s guitar duo while Jocke nicely dictates the rhythm with his potent beats, ending with melancholic piano notes, whereas Raven’s Flight contains all elements we love in their music, those being of course heavy and electrifying riffs, nonstop beats and enraged roars. Not only that, it’s at the same time fast and neck-breaking just the way classic Melodic Death Metal demands, while Ted’s bass keeps rumbling in the background majestically. In Ironside we’re treated to accelerated beats intertwined with headbanging moments, exhaling epicness and power in a crushing display of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, setting the tone for The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, bringing forward a pensive and dark aura while the instrumental pieces represent all the obscurity that’s embracing the main character to perfection. Moreover, get ready for battle to the sound of Olavi’s and Johan Söderberg’s guitars, who shred their strings with a lot of passion and feeling.

When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails is another one of those creations by Johan Hegg and his crew overflowing epicness where all instruments are in perfect sync, therefore enhancing the song’s taste and impact (especially Jocke with his rhythmic and groovy beats); and putting the pedal to the metal Amon Amarth smash our heads in Skoll and Hati, a song about the two wolves from Norse mythology (“From the iron moors of Jotunheim / Arose two beasts of wrath innate / Skoll and Hati were their names / Born of Fenris, born of hate”), represented by the speed and fury flowing from drums and guitars, which are all Johan Hegg needs to deliver a beyond powerful vocal performance. There’s no sign of slowing down as Wings of Eagles is just as frantic and vibrant as its predecessor, sounding perfect for heading into the battlefield (also known as the circle pit) to the crushing beats by Jocke and the thunderous bass lines by Ted. And last but not least, Into the Dark is another good song by the band which, albeit sounding as epic as expected, goes on for a little too long (maybe it would have worked better with a few extra variations). Johan Hegg’s deep guttural vocals are amazing, though, as well as the song’s final moments.

Are your spears and swords sharp enough to join the most beloved and dauntless Vikings of Melodic Death Metal in their quest for metal music? Well, I bet after listening to Berserker, available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale HERE (or HERE if you fancy some exclusive, ass-kicking bundles), you’ll be more than ready to head into the battlefield and give your life and blood together with Amon Amarth. Put differently, simply raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you in the name of Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, Shield Wall, Raven’s Flight and Skoll and Hati.

Worst moments of the album: Into the Dark.

Released in 2019 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. Fafner’s Gold 5:00
2. Crack the Sky 3:49
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor 4:42
4. Shield Wall 3:46
5. Valkyria 4:43
6. Raven’s Flight 5:20
7. Ironside 4:30
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge 5:13
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails 4:24
10. Skoll and Hati 4:27
11. Wings of Eagles 4:03
12. Into the Dark 6:48

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Guest musician
Javier Reyes – acoustic guitars on “Fafner’s Gold”

Album Review – mTORR / North (2018)

Enjoy the brainchild of a true Northman highly influenced by 80’s True Metal and Nordic themes, delivering raw and merciless riffs for admirers of the golden years of traditional heavy music.

Hailing from the Finnish city of Äänekoski, here comes a Heavy/Viking Metal one-man band highly influenced by 80’s True Metal bands such as Running Wild, Manowar, Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, as well as the always interesting Nordic themes, delivering raw, uncompromised and merciless music for admirers of the golden years of traditional metal music. I’m talking about mTORR, the brainchild of Finnish multi-instrumentalist Arska (whose real name is Ari Honkonen), from renowned underground bands like Heathen Hoof, Minotauri and Morningstar, a solo project formed in 2017 who’s unleashing upon humanity  in 2018 the full-length opus North. Featuring a cover photo by Timo Honkonen and guest drummer Viljami (or Viljami Kinnunen) lending his talent to a few songs from the album, North is the natural follow-up to the project’s two previous EP’s, Nordic Iron Age and Viking Metal Rock, both also released in 2018, once again translating into music all the passion for Heavy Metal coming from the heart of a true Northman like Arska.

The album’s intro will take you to the shores of the realm ruled by the true metal warrior Arska and his mTORR, warming your senses up for the Manowar-inspired hymn Thundergod with its four minutes of crisp guitar riffs, galloping bass lines, pounding drums and an epic Running Wild-like rhythm and vibe, and exhaling epicness and might we have The Golden Fields of Tawastia, where Arska’s guitar lines sound captivating from start to finish, adding an extra touch of adrenaline to the music. However, the drums sound and feel slightly weird, not as precise as in the previous song, reducing the overall impact considerably. Then again blending the classic sonority by bands like Manowar, Running Wild and Iron Maiden, Arska delivers inspiring Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll music in Nordic Rocker, with his bass lines and drums generating a powerful support for his warlike vocals.

Razor-edged guitars ignite another old school tune named A Halo from the Gods, perfect for banging your head and raising your fists together with mTORR, also bringing fiery guitar solos and endless stamina, setting the tone for Nordic Hammer, with its pure Manowar lyrics (“In the hammer we trust! / You can’t take it away! / That’s the way we believe! / We’re the sons of the North!”), while the song’s pace and atmosphere remind me of the early days of Running Wild, or in other words, a combination that translates into awesomeness of course. Arska keeps smashing and pounding his strings like the mighty Thor with his hammer in another rhythmic and rumbling song titled Rock för North, where the bass lines get more thunderous than ever, keeping the music vibrant and fresh from start to finish; and putting the pedal to the metal, Arska is once again supported by the headbanging beats by Viljami in Guardians of Light, a song that will please all fans of the fusion between Heavy Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Viking Metal.

Then a video game-ish bridge named The Raid of Sigtuna warms up our senses for Metal for the North, a fast-paced, epic creation by Arska showcasing cutting riffs and classic drums, not to mention its lyrics which are a beautiful ode to his homeland (“Beautiful Scandinavia – Ancient Fennoscandia – Are the soul of a northern warrior – And the crystal clear ice! / Metal makes us stronger – And the northern legacy / Forward together – We’re playing metal for the North!”). mTORR’s second to last blast of battle-like metal and rock from the North comes in the form of Fennoscandian Nights, displaying a galloping bass in total sync with Arska’s always classic riffs, boosting its impact on the listener considerably, before the demo version for Fennoscandian Heathens (actually, the sound quality is just as good as the rest of the album despite being called a demo) comes crushing, sounding faster and just as epic and imposing as all previous songs, being a recommended choice for singling along with Arska and a climatic conclusion to this interesting tribute to all things North.

As already mentioned, North is not just an album of old school metal music, but the musical depiction of all the passion and appreciation the talented Arska nurtures for his homeland, and if you also want to show your support to his new project mTORR and to the stunning landscapes of the North, you can purchase your copy of the album from the Alone Records’ webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from the High Roller Records’ webstore (also in CD or vinyl) or from Discogs (in CD or vinyl), with all 250 hand-numbered vinyl copies coming with a sticker and the first 100 copies with a poster. As you can see, you cannot simply download North like most albums nowadays. North is a tribute to the past, and that’s how it’s supposed to be admired by us, old school metalheads.

Best moments of the album: Thundergod, Nordic Rocker, Nordic Hammer and Metal for the North.

Worst moments of the album: The Golden Fields of Tawastia.

Released in 2018 Alone Records

Track listing
1. Intro 1:05
2. Thundergod 4:08
3. The Golden Fields of Tawastia 3:27
4. Nordic Rocker 3:39
5. A Halo from the Gods 3:59
6. Nordic Hammer 2:07
7. Rock för North 3:34
8. Guardians of Light 3:07
9. The Raid of Sigtuna (Instrumental) 1:17
10. Metal for the North 3:36
11. Fennoscandian Nights 3:54
12. Fennoscandian Heathens (Demo) 3:10

Band members
Arska – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Viljami – drums on “Thundergod”, “Guardians of Light” and “Fennoscandian Heathens”

Album Review – Coldbound / The Gale (2018)

Living is an act of courage, and this Melodic Death Metal act from Sweden has the perfect soundtrack for that.

Founded by Greek multi-instrumentalist Pauli Souka in 2012 in Vantaa, a city in Finland that is part of the inner core of the Finnish Capital Region along with Helsinki, Espoo, and Kauniainen, but currently located in Hudiksvall, a Swedish city also known as Glada Hudik due to its hospitality and social life, the heavy-as-hell metal unity known as Coldbound returns with a brand new opus titled The Gale, their first Melodic Death Metal album to date. If you got used to the Black Metal-inspired approach of their previous releases such as their 2015 album Rites Under Moonlight, get ready to be stunned by the new Coldbound, sounding more polished, doomed, darker and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of Insomnium, Draconian, Swallow The Sun and Wolfheart, among other excellent Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal acts.

Featuring the aforementioned Pauli Souka on vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and programming, accompanied by Swedish artist Paulina Medepona (also known as Satana Lucia, and who was also responsible for the incredible and obscure album art) and Finnish keyboardist Andras Miklosvari, the concept behind The Gale focuses on memories of nostalgia and personal struggles, having the purpose of raising the awareness of those who suffer from depression, those who have suicidal thoughts or those who feel lonely. The motto of the album, repeated continuously on the song “Shades of Myself” and displayed on the digipak version of it, is “living is an act of courage”, with the album’s lyrics being mostly inspired by personal struggles and somehow promoting optimism through dark times. Such important message  only gets stronger and stronger as the music progresses, showcasing all the talent and hard work of Pauli and his crew and placing them as one of the most interesting names of the current underground scene.

In the intro 61° 43′ N 17° 07 E, which by the way are the coordinates for a point in Hudiksvall, the soothing sound of rain and an ethereal vibe suddenly explode into a feast of extreme music, setting the stage for The Invocation, highly inspired by the dark and pensive music by Insomnium and with Pauli firing his anguished growls while at the same time keeping the music mournful with his Doom Metal-like beats. Needless to say, the song’s lyrics exhale poetry (“Dark is the night, and the veils are drawn of shadows / Dark is the day, while the sun is no longer awake / The sun is calling for your dawn / These words colour countless shades I shall revoke beyond these shores / And drink your fading crimson tear”), and heaviness keeps pounding our heads in the also obscure but very melodic Endurance Through Infinity, where the guitar lines bring a touch of epicness from Folk and Viking Metal, with Pauli making sure we crack our necks in half headbanging to the song’s crushing rhythm.

Enhancing the impact and delicacy of their music thanks to the keyboards by Andras and the stunning vocals by Paulina, Coldbound deliver a touching creation titled The Eminent Light, where the melancholy flowing from the guitars create an interesting paradox with its doomed beats; followed by the title-track The Gale, which kicks off in full force with its Black Metal blast beats and an enfolding atmosphere. Furthermore, this is probably Pauli’s most demonic mode from the entire album, blasting infernal growls and scorching riffs during the whole song, as well as thunderous and dense bass lines. Then we have the fantastic My Solace, with its lyrics taken from the poem book of Kostas Karyotakis titled “Nostalgia” (“My solace will be seen – by scars upon my heart / My solace will be told – by letter of remorse / The bitter greet – a cold farewell / The olden sorrows – that ignite again”). Andras once again brings tons of flavor to the musicality with his keys, while Pauli gives a lesson in dark, melancholic and gripping Melodic Death Metal, flowing majestically until its astounding finale.

Winters Unfold is another neck-breaking creation by Coldbound, with its rhythm and vibe once again presenting hints of Folk Metal and with the strident guitars by Pauli going along flawlessly with his growls; whereas in Shades Of Myself a promising start solidifies into a classic Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal tune, as polished and vibrant as we can expect from a band like Coldbound, and once again with Pauli adding a good amount of intricacy to the overall sound through his beats. Lastly, how about an 11-minute aria of melodic and obscure extreme music entitled Towards The Weeping Skies to conclude the album? In this journey through the dark, the vocals by Pauli get to a point where they can be considered “anguished whispers”, not to mention the outstanding phantasmagorical keys in the background. Hence, you’ll be hypnotized by Pauli’s guitar lines before the music fades into a gentle and touching outro, accompanied by the sound of a heavy and gorgeous tempest.

The Gale is available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, but if I were you I would definitely show my honest support to such distinct act by purchasing the album from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel (in digipak format or as a digipak + shirt bundle), from iTunes, or from Amazon. Also, don’t forget to pay Coldbound a visit at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and let their comforting darkness embrace you. If living is an act of courage as Coldbound say, then The Gale might be the perfect soundtrack for that tough but always rewarding adventure.

Best moments of the album: Endurance Through Infinity, The Gale and My Solace.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Moonlight Productions

Track listing
1. 61° 43′ N 17° 07 E 2:40
2. The Invocation 5:22
3. Endurance Through Infinity 7:15
4. The Eminent Light 5:36
5. The Gale 7:35
6. My Solace 7:18
7. Winters Unfold 5:35
8. Shades Of Myself 5:36
9. Towards The Weeping Skies 10:58

iTunes/Amazon bonus track
10.The Eminent Light (Instrumental) 5:32

Band members
Pauli Souka – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, programming

Guest musicians
Paulina Medepona – vocals on “The Eminent Light”
Andras Miklosvari – keyboards on “The Eminent Light”, “The Gale”, “My Solace” and “Winters Unfold”, orchestrations

Album Review – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

Armed with his debut album and a strong passion for all things Viking and Folk Metal, here comes a dauntless one-warrior metal machine from the winterly lands of Canada.

“Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor!
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn,
Swaying the long-hair’d goats with silver’d rein.” – from ‘Balder Dead’

Inspired by the Viking and folk music played by renowned acts such as Wintersun, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Blind Guardian, and in special by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Börje Forsberg, the iconic Quorthon (1966 – 2004) from Black Metal institution Bathory, who’s also credited with creating the Viking Metal style, here comes Folk/Viking Metal one-man army (or one-warrior metal machine, as he prefers) North Hammer armed with his debut full-length album, Stormcaller, a 21st century continuation of the work of Norse bards who inspired the ancient poem above.

Formed in 2017 in the northern lands of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James (Eye of Horus, Shotgunner), North Hammer is the representation of the common theme winter that comes up in metal music and a reference to Canada (the “north”), and Andrew’s personal tribute to Mjolnir, or Thor’s Hammer. Andrew wrote and recorded the vocals, guitars, bass and orchestration in Stormcaller, along with drums done by Doug Helcaraxë Nunez and a classic artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), and his goal with North Hammer and his new album is simple but powerful. “The experience I’m trying to give the listeners is that of a fellow fan. I want people to be euphoric for other bands that mean something to them like Ensiferum, Wintersun and Amon Amarth. To connect personally with my music and realize that I love and worship these bands.”

Epicness takes over the atmosphere in the opening track Avatar, filling every empty space before Andrew begins his growling attack, also bringing heavy and traditional riffs while Doug keeps the music at a vibrant pace. In other words, this is a beyond solid “welcome card” by North Hammer, setting the tone for Wanderer, and let me tell you it can’t get any more Folk Metal than this, as our minds and souls are treated to a strong and vibrant tune where Doug takes care of the song’s inspiring pace while Andrew continues to impress with all instruments and his harsh vocals. And presenting an introspective, catchy intro, Written in the Stars evolves into modern-day Folk Metal with Melodic Death Metal nuances, with Andrew’s vocals getting more intense and enraged, effectively accompanying the heaviness and melody of the guitars.

Magic Mead is one of those songs tailored for fans of the dancing heavy music by Ensiferum, showcasing more rhythmic, epic moments intertwined with sheer speed and progressiveness while its lyrics exhale Folk and Viking Metal (“Soilent earth sewn with blood / The enemy lays in the mud / A victory not to forget / And celebrate the worthy dead / In his eyes unrest subsides / For dreams of destiny he strides / Through the day and through the night / To behold this astral sight”); followed by an inspiring speech that ignites a feast of heavy and fast sounds titled Tip of the Spear, presenting the duo Andrew and Doug in perfect sync while they head together into the battlefield, with its classic guitar riffs and solos helping enhance its overall impact. Then it’s time to bang your head and raise your horns to all soldiers in the world to the flammable Folk Metal hymn A Soldier’s Song, led by the aggressive and potent growls by Andrew, keeping the album at a truly epic level.

Black Forest Rain is a serene, introspective instrumental bridge, with the sound of the acoustic guitars guiding us to the world of Spellbinder, where a soulful guitar solo by Andrew kicks things off before all hell breaks loose in another blast of classic Viking Metal perfect for singing along with Andrew and for slamming into the pit. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, North Hammer, an Epic Metal extravaganza with all elements we love in the genre such as powerful vocal lines, gripping guitars, pounding drums and poetic lyrics (“Crack through the ice / Swim through the depths / Pulsing through your veins / Forget all the rest / High into the Skies / Relic of Old / North Hammer”), resulting into one of the best moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt; and North Hammer’s final breath of fire and thunder comes in the form of a song named Lion’s Winter, a demolishing Folk Metal chant where Doug is bestial on drums while Andrew takes his growling to a deeper and more violent level, flowing smoothly until its melodic finale.

One thing I’m only going to mention now about Stormcaller (which is available for a full listen HERE) is that this is a concept album describing the trials of a hero in a Nordic fantasy setting. The album has been rearranged in order to place appeal to the broader audience, but the actual progression of the story line is Written in the Stars, A Soldier’s Song, Magic Mead, Black Forest Rain, Wanderer, North Hammer, Tip of the Spear, Avatar, Spellbinder, and Lion’s Winter, which means if you buy the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Amazon or from CD Baby, you’ll be able to rearrange the tracks yourself and follow the story as it’s supposed to be. In addition, while North Hammer is a studio project at the moment, Andrew plans to put together a band of top-notch like-minded musicians in a not-so-distant future, and if you want to show your support for such brave metal warrior go check what he’s up to on Facebook, on SoundCloud and on ReverbNation. And of course, don’t forget to praise the Norse Gods whenever you’re about to enter the battlefield, inspired by the music by North Hammer and by all renowned Viking and folk bands Andrew loves so much.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, Magic Mead and North Hammer.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Avatar 4:46
2. Wanderer 3:42
3. Written in the Stars 3:27
4. Magic Mead 4:11
5. Tip of the Spear 3:49
6. A Soldier’s Song 4:34
7. Black Forest Rain (Instrumental) 2:10
8. Spellbinder 3:36
9. North Hammer 3:26
10. Lion’s Winter 3:34

Band members
Andrew James – vocals, guitars, bass, orchestration

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Elina Siirala

The heat that licks my skin, it takes me high…

Brothers and sisters of metal, let’s all get together to praise our metal chick of the month of April 2018, the stunning Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, better known for being the founder and frontwoman for English Melodic Metal band Angel Nation (formerly known as EnkElination), and for joining German Symphonic/Viking Metal act Leaves’ Eyes as the second female vocalist in the history of the band, replacing the iconic Liv Kristine. Having said that, are you ready to know more about such talented musician, and obviously head into the battlefield side by side with her?

Elina was born on October 27, 1983 in the Finnish capital Helsinki, being the second cousin of Tuomas Holopainen, well known founder and keyboardist of Nightwish. And let’s say that music truly runs in her veins as her whole family is comprised of musicians, not to mention she’s the third generation of teachers, with her passion for singing having started at a very young age when she was only 5 years old. Both her parents are teachers at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and her brother works as a professor in Munich, which means there was a lot of singing, playing and listening to music in her life while she was growing up. One funny story about her passion for music was that she basically begged her parents to start violin lessons, even building her own violin out of a piece of wood and rubber bands. She ended up playing the violin for seven years and also learned how to play piano by herself, but in the end singing was always what she loved the most in music.

After taking singing lessons at the age of 17, Elina got into the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki two years later, completing a Bachelor’s degree in classical music and performing in operas and concerts during that period, and after finishing her studies she decided to broaden her knowledge by moving from Helsinki to London, England, where she spent another year studying contemporary styles such as Rock & Soul (a very challenging one vocally speaking according to Elina herself), a course that also included a lot of performing by the way. In addition, throughout all those years of study, she was also a music teacher and wrote a lot of music, which culminated in 2011 with the creation of her own band EnkeliNation. As a matter of fact, her move to London was the true catalyst of her love for heavy music, with some hard times in her personal life being a source of inspiration for her music and lyrics.

In regards to her career with Angel Nation, as aforementioned it all started in November 2011 when she formed the band under the name EnkElination, with the band’s name being a play on words featuring “enkeli”, which is the Finnish word for “angel”, and also her own name “Elina” in the middle, changing the name to Angel Nation in 2016. Elina was initially joined by guitarist Shadow (Empyreal Destroyer, Stand Aside, Shadow Venger), playing the local London scene and developing the band as a live act while going through several lineup changes during the band’s first few years. Angel Nation also played a few important European festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Lankafest and The Dames of Darkness Festival, having released so far in their career the three-track, download-only EP titled Never Ending in 2012, and the albums Tears of Lust, in 2014, and Aeon, in 2017, as well as a couple of singles. Currently comprised of Elina on vocals and keyboards, Sonny Antoniou on the guitar, Julia B Cadau on bass, and Lucas Williamson on drums, Angel Nation play classic, straightforward Symphonic Metal, and you can enjoy their stylish music on their official YouTube channel, having the pleasure of listening to Elina’s powerful vocals in songs like Last Time Together (also available as an acoustic live version), Do It Anyway, and Tears Of Lust, as well as other live videos and special announcements.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During one of the concerts where Angel Nation worked as a supporting act, Elina came up to the attention of Leaves’ Eyes, being invited in 2016 to join the band to replace their departing singer Liv Kristine. And she started touring and recording with Leaves’ Eyes immediately after joining the band, including a tour with Leaves’ Eyes alongside Sabaton in the United States in 2016 (while at the same time still managing and fronting Angel Nation), and some very unique concerts like the one in Indonesia where she sang in front of 21,000 people despite the heavy tropical storm that hit the venue before the gig, and a small but fully packed venue in Belgium that she considers one of the hottest shows she’s ever done, feeling like a sauna on stage. Since Elina became the new frontwoman for Leaves’ Eyes, the band has already released a handful of singles; an EP titled Fires in the North, in 2016, which includes an original song (also presented in acoustic format) and three re-recorded songs from the band’s 2015 album King Of Kings; and now in 2018 their first full-length album with Elina on vocals, entitled Sign of the Dragonhead. You can have a very good time together with Elina and Leaves’ Eyes by listening to excellent songs such as Edge of Steel, Across The SeaFires in the North, Jomsborg, and Sign Of The Dragonhead. When asked about her favorite songs by Leaves’ Eyes, our dauntless Valkyrie mentioned Take the Devil in Me (from the band’s 2010 album Njord) and Sacred Vow (originally from King Of Kings, but re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) as two songs she would definitely add to her personal playlist, while Edge Of Steel and Swords In Rock (both also from King Of Kings and re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) might be the ones she has the most fun playing live.

As previously mentioned, our Finnish diva has also been a vocal coach and teacher since she was 19, as during her years studying classical singing there was a a large variety of subjects such as music history, music theory and also music teaching, giving classes and lessons about breathing technique, vocal exercises (vocal placement and projection), stylistic awareness, repertoire, and stage and performance technique. Elina mentioned that she really loves teaching and that it’s been a pleasure for her to have already had many different students over the years, saying it’s at the same time challenging and rewarding. Of course, having to balance between Angel Nation and Leaves’ Eyes together with her vocal coach and teaching activities is not an easy task, with very little free time left, something she has to manage by scheduling and planning well in advance. Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews that whenever she has some free time, she likes seeing her friends, watching movies and relaxing, also saying she doesn’t really have any time for hobbies. And to stay in shape on and off tours, Elina said she has an active lifestyle, practicing all kinds of sports to keep her fitness up, and while she’s on tour she said that being on stage is already a good workout for her, always resulting in her losing some weight.

Lastly, when asked about her biggest idols in music, and singers she admires and that inspired her in any way, Elina said that she really likes female singers such as Dutch goddess Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and Whitney Houston, as she enjoys all kinds of styles, while her favorite male singers are Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator Placido Domingo, who she used to idolize when she was a teenager, and the one and only British icon Freddie Mercury, her all-time inspiration as a singer. Anyone who admires Mr. Freddie Mercury already deserves our utmost respect, and when that person is as talented, energetic and hardworking as our unstoppable Finnish banshee Elina Siirala, things get even better and more epic.

Elina Siirala’s Official Facebook page
Elina Siirala’s Official Twitter
Elina Siirala’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official Facebook page
Angel Nation’s Official Twitter
Angel Nation’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official YouTube channel
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Facebook page
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Twitter
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Instagram
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official YouTube channel

“I think it’s amazing how much emotions music can awaken in people, how it can change your mood and bring back memories. It’s the perfect way of expressing myself as an artist and sometimes writing songs is almost like therapy that helps you through hard times. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, singing is definitely the most personal for me as I’m actually the instrument and I get to express everything through my own voice and of course lyrics.” – Elina Siirala

Album Review – Himiltungl / Öden (2017)

An unconventional album by three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others through their haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland.

Rating5

cover-digitalFormed in 2013 in Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries, and inspired by the traditional Folk, Viking and Black Metal creations by bands like Týr, Vintersorg and Woods of Ypres, Folk Metal band Himiltungl (which means “the fucking moon” in ancient Swedish) weaves a haunting mix of Black and Viking Metal with folk melodies from the deep forests of Jamtland, a historical province in the center of Sweden. The band consists of three high-skilled musicians who want to share their inner Swedish darkness with others, and in that way invoke a sense of dread, joy and wonder, primarily singing in Swedish and Jamtlandic with lyrics conflictingly revolving around the majesty of nature interspersed with reflections on the terminality of life and death.

If all that explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, simply hit play and enjoy the music found in Öden (which translates to “fates”), the long awaited follow-up to their debut album Svart Ravin, from 2013, telling stories of blood, loss and tragic ends while continuing to explore the folk-inspired path that was initiated with their first album, always moving towards heavier and more progressive sounds. Each song will sound completely different to your ears, sometimes bursting with anger and aggressiveness, sometimes being as smooth as the sound of a placid lake, and that’s exactly what Himiltungl wants you to feel while listening to Öden. This is not your average Folk Metal album, so you better sharpen your senses for the freakish amalgamation of sounds and emotions found in Öden in order to understand what the Folk Metal by Himiltungl truly means.

In Myrens Gäst, the trio starts blasting their dark music with folk elements from the very beginning, with the somber vocals by Jens being complemented by the also melancholic voice by Magnus. It’s quite difficult to label this as only one subgenre of heavy music, but I would personally say it sounds like some sort of “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”. Anyway, in The Dying War, one of the few songs in English from the album, Jens and his hellish gnarls perfectly fit the unusual and modern Folk Metal instrumental, with drummer Mattias bringing the necessary groove and progressiveness to the musicality. And Skogstokig brings forward Scandinavian guitar lines and minstrel-like vocals in a very traditional folk way, with its last part getting more metallic with potent riffs and beats alternating with harmonious vocalizations.

Paying homage to their tribal roots, the band offers the listener Eldsjäl, a touching blend of Folk Metal and ancient soundings where both Jens and Magnus deliver passionate performances on vocals, with some harsher moments to spice up the final result; followed by Shadows Crowd, their most contemporary composition, getting closer to Blackened Folk Metal. Mattias and Magnus craft the base to this melancholic and powerful chant with their beats and bass lines, while Jens once again delivers solid vocal lines throughout the entire song. In Kung Jorum a melancholic intro flows into heavier traditional music with all folk elements sounding crystal clear, also presenting interesting acoustic passages, whereas in Cerebration Gate an inspiring beginning quickly morphs into a mid-tempo Folk Metal hymn, presenting raspier gnarls by Jens and heavier guitar lines. This is in my opinion one of the best songs of the album, showcasing an effective combination of progressiveness and feeling.

himiltungl_oden-42

Photo by Paul Wennerholm – http://paulwennerholm.com/

In Tångsal, a song made to be played and sung around the fire pit, Jens grasps the song’s lyrics like a demonic entity while the instrumental parts feel like a blend of Folk and Pagan Metal with hints of Black Metal, before Sökaren brings forward medieval and folk elements added to its heavy and electrified guitars, with the backing vocals as well as the precise drumming by Mattias elevating the overall quality of the song. And Glöd, their most complex aria and the longest of all tracks at almost nine minutes, displays over two minutes of distorted noises before the music reaches its final shape and tone. Moreover, when the guitar by Jens gets heavier than usual, the song gets a lot more obscure and impactful.

Urmoder not only has an excellent pace and intensity, but the symphonic elements present in it also bring more darkness to the overall musicality, with all band members delivering a precise performance (in special Mattias with his potent and rhythmic beats) in what’s one of the most gripping of all songs. Ivolin, another blast of Folk and Pagan Metal, proves that when Himiltungl craft their modern and heavy version of minstrel-like music they effectively reflect their core essence and their inspirations; and in the introspective Hatarens Sång, minimalist guitar sounds generate the ambience for Jens and his bandmates to tell a story through their grim vocals, with all instruments being progressively added to the music for a climatic ending.

After listening to the multilayered Öden, available on iTunes and on Amazon, you’ll certainly agree with what I said in the beginning of this review about how difficult it is to label the music by this up-and-coming Swedish trio. You can definitely try giving a name or definition to their music, by studying more about the band and their creations through their Facebook page, YouTube channel, BandCamp and SoundCloud. As previously mentioned, I like to call their music as “Melodic Dark Folk Metal”, simply because it is indeed very melodic, constantly dark and always folk, but anything I say won’t be enough to describe their unconventional canticles.

Best moments of the album: Shadows Crowd, Cerebration Gate and Urmoder.

Worst moments of the album: Kung Jorum.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Myrens Gäst 6:32
2. The Dying War 3:10
3. Skogstokig 3:34
4. Eldsjäl 5:22
5. Shadows Crowd 4:41
6. Kung Jorum 7:18
7. Cerebration Gate 5:32
8. Tångsal 3:09
9. Sökaren 3:44
10. Glöd 8:55
11. Urmoder 3:58
12. Ivolin 4:03
13. Hatarens Sång 3:25

Band members
Jens – vocals, guitars
Magnus – bass, vocals
Mattias – drums

Album Review –NordWitch / Mørk Profeti (2016)

Behold the rise of a brand new Blackened Death Metal horde hailing from Ukraine, taking the entire world by storm with their high-voltage fusion of epicness and blasphemy.

Rating4

nordwitch-coverWatching the rise of Ukrainian Metal is a thing of beauty. Despite not having any major names yet in the world of heavy music, Ukraine has been growing in importance for all types of metalheads, with names such as Apostate, Sad Alice Said, Majesty Of Revival, Morkesagn and Gasoline Guns, among many others, blasting their powerful music to the four corners of the earth. Having said that, we might be witnessing the birth of a Ukrainian act that has all it takes to take the entire world by storm with their high-voltage fusion of epicness and blasphemy. That band is Blackened Death Metal horde NordWitch, who have just released their extremely heavy debut album entitled Mørk Profeti (or “dark prophecy” from Norwegian).

Formed in February 2015 in the capital city of Kiev, NordWitch are highly inspired by interesting (and usually controversial) topics like Satanism, Occultism and Norse mythology, all embraced by their mighty riffs, their intricate and crisp drumming, and the deep guttural by their stunning frontwoman Masha. The only difference from the band’s inception until today is Ukrainian drummer Eugene Hrulev, who has recently replaced the amazing Hungarian stone crusher Donets Stepan, but apart from that the band has been a solid institution ready to conquer the world with their scathing fusion of Black and Death Metal and a strong passion for extreme music.

As a great example of how powerful and melodious the music by NordWitch is, let me start by saying that they managed to make the three-minute instrumental intro Mørk Profeti truly interesting and exciting even without the vocals by Masha, with Donets smashing his drums flawlessly while Max and Leo kick some serious ass with their guitar lines a la Arch Enemy. As a matter of fact, if you love Arch Enemy you’ll find a lot of them in each song by NordWitch, obviously considerably darker and more blasphemous. Then we have Dominion, a fuckin’ devastating, robust tune (it can’t get any better than this!) tailored for lovers of modern Blackened Death Metal, where Masha and Donets are true beasts on vocals and drums, respectively; followed by Walker From The Shade,  with Masha growling deeper and deeper while Max and Leo continue their guitar onslaught, supported by the metallic lines by bassist Max Senchilo. Furthermore, the “evil Arch Enemy” offer us more of their melodious riffs and solos, not to mention the epic and menacing vibe crafted by all instruments.

nordwitchIn the top-tier chant Lady Evil, the fast and cataclysmic beats by Donets, together with the song’s great riffage and another infernal performance by Masha on vocals, turn it into one the most flammable moments of the album. Moreover, Max delivers an awesome guitar solo at the end just to make the song even more thrilling than what it already is. The Call To An Ancient Evil brings forward a brutal beginning to another sensational creation by NordWitch, where Masha seems to declaim the words in a guttural way instead of screaming them, whereas the musicality sounds very technical and progressive at times mainly thanks to the high level of intricacy found in the song’s guitars and drums. And highly influenced by Scandinavian Extreme Metal, the most epic composition by NordWitch and also one of the best of the album, the rip-roaring To Nord Gods, contains all elements we love in this type of music, including a Viking Metal acoustic intro perfect for the theme proposed by the band, a beautiful pace led by the guitar lines and solos by Max and Leo, and Masha telling a compelling story through her powerful guttural vocals.

In the last two songs of Mørk Profeti, the band’s Blackened Death Metal arises like the burning fires of the underworld similar to what the iconic Behemoth usually do, starting with No Regret, with elements of Thrash and Death Metal added to its already explosive formula, always making sure there’s a huge amount of harmony and cohesiveness amidst the sonic chaos generated by the entire band. And lastly, more Nordic sounds penetrate our ears and minds in the furious chant Messiah Of Death, where Donets is impressive with his precision and rage on drums while Masha gnarls like a female demon, closing such potent opus magnificently.

In my humble opinion, we should all follow the ascension of NordWitch through their Facebook page and VKontakte, and of course blast our ears with their demonic music through their YouTube channel and ReverbNation, because this band is definitely going places and if you love metal like I do you’ll also be very curious to know how high they can go. Mørk Profeti, which can be purchased at the Satanath Records’ BandCamp or webstore, is not only the first stone in their rising castle of darkness, but an album that will put you to bang your head and raise your horns nonstop, which is pretty much everything we want in good heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Lady Evil and To Nord Gods.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Satanath Records/Darzamadicus Records

Track listing
1. Mørk Profeti (Intro) 2:53
2. Dominion 5:27
3. Walker From The Shade 4:33
4. Lady Evil 4:44
5. The Call To An Ancient Evil 5:22
6. To Nord Gods 4:53
7. No Regret 5:15
8. Messiah Of Death 5:08

Band members
Masha – vocals
Max – lead guitar
Leo – rhythm guitar
Max Senchilo – bass
Donets Stepan – drums

Album Review – Vindland / Hanter Savet (2016)

Directly from the French region of Britanny, here comes a Black and Viking Metal power trio that effectively knows how to blend aggressiveness, history and culture into extreme music.

Rating4

Vindland-Hanter-Savet2016Breton, the old native Celtic language spoken in Brittany, a cultural region in the north-west of France that became an independent kingdom and then a duchy before being united with the Kingdom of France in 1532, also referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain), might not be the most commonly used language anymore by the Bretons, but it still plays an important role in this distinct region of France. One of the most interesting usages of Breton in modern days is undoubtedly in music and arts, like what you’ll find in Hanter Savet, the brand new album by Black/Viking Metal power trio Vindland.

The lyrics, song titles and even the album title are all written in Breton, showing how much this talented band based in the city of Paimpol is connected to their roots, therefore making the whole album more organic and heartfelt. The band was formed in 2004 and, after releasing a demo, an EP and after playing a few concerts, the band split up. In 2010, however, the band was reformed and started working on what would be Hanter Savet, and based on the potency of the music found throughout the entire album I believe this time Vindland are here to stay, delivering a well-balanced mix of the brutality found in Black Metal with the epicness and emotions of Viking and Folk Metal. Although you might not understand a single word sung by the band, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good time listening to this Breton opus.

The aforementioned aggression of Black Metal and the burning passion of Viking Metal are already united in the opening track, named Orin Kozh. The voice by frontman Romuald is that type of devilish and strident growl perfect for extreme music, supported by a musicality that’s always evolving through time due to all tempo changes without sounding tiresome or being too lengthy in duration. Treuzwelus continues the attack from where the first song ended, presenting several Folk and Pagan Metal elements in a very creative form, with Marc being precise and energetic on drums and, consequently, providing all support Romuald and Camille need for their vocals and galloping riffs, respectively. And Serr-Noz brings forward a melodic atmosphere that captures the listener’s mind and takes him on an epic Black Metal journey, with Camille discharging a high level of excitement due to his amazing guitar lines. Moreover, its magic aura only grows in intensity as the music progresses, with innumerous elements from all types of music added as a “bonus” to the listener in the background.

vindland-bandIn Pedenn Koll, its smooth intro works as “the calm before the storm” of Melodic Black Metal that suddenly arrives, with highlights to its infernal growls contrasting with the harmony built by the guitars and to another outstanding performance by Marc on drums; while in Skleur Dallus the heavier riffs by Camille, which sound a lot closer to traditional Heavy Metal, ignite this rhythmic Pagan Metal hymn. Furthermore, the music only keeps expanding its boundaries until it embraces you completely, with even its serene breaks having a lot of energy flowing. The high-end Folk Metal composition Morlusenn displays a characteristic sonority from Scandinavian music, but with the band’s own French touch, and despite focusing a lot more on its instrumental parts it’s important to say the anguished growls by Romuald sound truly amazing and are exactly what the music needed.

The band’s versatility becomes evident in Skorneg Du, as they mutate from Folk Metal to pure old school Black Metal with Viking Metal elements in a 7-minute battle chant that lives up to the tradition of the Norsemen, as well as in Skeud Ar Gwez, an epic 11-minute aria that starts in a very progressive and atmospheric form that lasts for over three minutes until it explodes into a feast of Extreme Metal. Albeit technical and professionally composed, in my opinion the music takes too long to take off, and maybe a shorter version of it in a similar format as all other songs would have been a lot more effective. And closing the album we have the bonus track And The Battle Ended, a re-recording of the original song from their 2009 EP named Ancestors’ Age, still containing the brutality and harmony of the original version but with an updated sonority following the band’s current approach.

In summary, the region of Britanny couldn’t be in better hands in terms of heavy music than with this excellent power trio, and Hanter Savet is a very good example of how history, culture and aggressiveness always work really well when combined in music and arts in general. If you want to know more about Vindland, go check their Facebook page and YouTube channel, where you can also listen to Hanter Savet in its entirety, and if you want to purchase the aubm simply visit the Black Lion Productions’ BandCamp or Big Cartel.

Best moments of the album: Treuzwelus, Serr-Noz and Skleur Dallus.

Worst moments of the album: Skeud Ar Gwez.

Released in 2016 Black Lion Productions

Track listing
1. Orin Kozh 4:32
2. Treuzwelus 6:20
3. Serr-Noz 5:55
4. Pedenn Koll 4:39
5. Skleur Dallus 4:59
6. Morlusenn 4:58
7. Skorneg Du 7:06
8. Skeud Ar Gwez 11:30

Bonus track
9. And The Battle Ended (2016 Version) 5:37

Band members
Romuald – vocals
Camille – guitars, bass
Marc – drums

Album Review – Frozen Ocean / The Prowess Of Dormition EP (2016)

Open your ears and your heart, and follow the ear-splitting sound of a frozen ocean of Atmospheric Black Metal hailing from the almighty Russia.

Rating4

hi-res coverSince the year of 2005, Russian multi-instrumentalist Vaarwel (who’s also a member of the excellent Russian bands Goatpsalm and Smothered Bowels) has been crafting music of incredible power, imagination, diversity and depth, releasing his creations under the banner of  Frozen Ocean. Hailing from the city of Moscow, Russia, this unstoppable metaller seems to have an endless fountain of creativity inside his blackened mind, always expressing his unique view of obscure themes such as winter, death and depression, and always avoiding any labels or preset formulas (let’s simply call his music Atmospheric Black Metal for you readers to understand the whole concept a little better). For instance, he was capable of delivering nothing less than 7 (seven!) Frozen Ocean albums in 2011, five of those being full-length ones. And now, in 2016, he has already started spreading his starless arias all over the world with a brand new EP entitled The Prowess Of Dormition.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of bands such as Moonsorrow, Borknagar and Sigh, or if you prefer rawer Black Metal acts like Dark Funeral and Immortal, the music found in The Prowess Of Dormition will definitely leave a (good) scar on your metallic soul due to its beauty, heaviness and complexity. Featuring an absorbing artwork by British artist/photographer Kieran Wakeman (Divine Chaos Art), who has already worked with bands such as Cadaveria, The King is Blind and Terror Universal, the EP has a lot to offer us metalheads in its 25-minute journey through gelid landscapes and dark thoughts, split in four distinct harmonious tunes.

The atmospheric intro in No Blizzard promptly invites the listener to the cold and desolated realms of Frozen Ocean, with Vaarwel making sure the harmony and pace of the song generate the necessary ambience for his harsh growls. In addition, Doom Metal elements are brought forth especially by the song’s gentle keyboard notes and constant beats delivered by Vaarwel, luring us to go even deeper into his dark world. And this doom-ish vibe goes on in the very somber and melodic Once Aglow, where there’s a lot of melancholy and sorrow flowing from Vaarwel’s growling. Moreover, the nice break halfway through it provides the listener some well-deserved peace of mind, before obscurity returns in this flawless fusion of Atmospheric and Symphonic Black Metal.

Frozen Ocean 3Det Siste Snøfallet (Norwegian for “the last snowfall”) begins at full force with its relentless beats and riffs, which aim at representing the harshest snowfall in the history of mankind. It’s a captivating instrumental tune where Vaarwel showcases all his abilities as a musician (and as a lover of dark music), working as an “extended” intro to the title-track, The Prowess Of Dormition, an amazing composition that offers the listener Frozen Ocean’s trademark Black Metal with hints of Folk and Viking Metal. Its keyboards get even more prominent and sinister, yet again providing a smooth break with endless amounts of feeling and melancholy until the music flows into a climatic ending, therefore concluding the album brilliantly.

In a nutshell, although The Prowess Of Dormition has been released as “just” an EP, it’s substantially more intricate and intense than most full-length records you might find anywhere, proving how talented Vaarwel is and providing hints of what this Russian one-man army might breed next. And in order to keep updated with everything happening with Frozen Ocean, go check their Facebook, VKontakte, YouTubeSoundCloud and BandCamp, and also buy your copy of The Prowess Of Dormition at the Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings’ official BandCamp and Big Cartel pages or at CD Baby. Just open your ears and your heart, relax, and follow the ear-splitting sound of this frozen ocean of extreme music.

Best moments of the album: The Prowess Of Dormition.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings

Track listing
1.No Blizzard 6:06
2.Once Aglow 7:10
3.Det Siste Snøfallet 5:19
4.The Prowess Of Dormition 6:15

Band members
Vaarwel – vocals, all instruments