Album Review – Antim Sanskar / Antim Sanskar (2021)

An international outfit formed of members from India, Austria and the UK is ready to bring doom to us all with their heavy and dense new album.

What started back in 2019 as a one-man project evolved into an international three-headed beast part Indian, part Austrian and part British that’s ready to crush your damned souls with their undisputed extreme music. I’m talking about Antim Sanskar (referring to the funeral rites in Sikhism, as antim means “final” while sanskar means “rite”), an Atmospheric Doom and Black Metal entity comprised of Sunay Bhat on vocals, Riccardo Veronese on rhythm and lead guitars, and Desderoth on bass, keyboards and drums, who has just released their debut full-length self-titled album. Recorded, mixed and mastered by C.P.P at W.I.E Studio, featuring a minimalist cover art by Sunay Bhat himself, and band logo design and commissioned art design by Dandi Iskander, the album consists of seven tracks embedded with skull-crushing riffs, painful melodies and heartfelt lyrics presented with a blend of clean vocals and harsh growls, dealing with somber themes such as depression, loss, regret and death and, therefore, being highly recommended for admirers of the darkest and most melancholic side of doom.

The cryptic piano notes by Desderoth in the intro Funeral Without Goodbyes will penetrate deep inside your mind before gentle acoustic guitars kick off The Feral Child, earlier released as “Asylum” for Sunay’s solo project Window of Doom. The song has been completely reworked and rereleased, resulting in almost 10 minutes of melancholic Doom Metal presenting deep, visceral gnarls by Sunay beautifully supported by the sluggish beats and ethereal keys by Desderoth, as well as elements from Funeral Doom to make things even more obscure. Changing gears to a more introspective and melodic vibe, Embers of the Ancient Flame offers the listener Sunay’s dark, clean vocals accompanied by the classic piano by Desderoth, evolving into a Melodic Doom Metal extravaganza spiced up by the stunning guitar lines and solos by Riccardo.

Then in the cinematic, instrumental Interlude the music blends majestically with the sound of the storm and the Gregorian chants in the background, setting the tone for Window of Doom, showcasing darkly poetic lyrics declaimed by Sunay (“In her withered bosom / She held a bed of thorns / Yearning to fall asleep, / Lay there forever / Allow the time to fade / Slip into eternal darkness / The only friend she knew / To sink in grief”) while the music offers a fusion of classic Doom Metal and Funeral Doom thanks to the spot-on beats and guitars by Desderoth and Riccardo, respectively. After such intense aria, phantasmagorical keys will crawl under your skin in DRC, exploding into a massive Doom Metal sonority where Riccardo is on fire with his wicked riffs, sounding very unique and disturbing from start to finish; and last but not least, it’s time for the trio to deliver a more infernal version of their doomed sounds in Die, Decay, Disintegrate, with Sunay roaring in a deeper and more demonic way while the guitars by Riccardo sound utterly metallic.

In case you’re curious to see how the collaboration between India, Austria and the UK resulted in first-class Atmospheric Doom and Black Metal, you can enjoy the album in its entirety on YouTube, but of course in order to provide your utmost support to the guys from Antim Sanskar go check what they’re up to on Facebook and on Instagram, and purchase a copy of their newborn opus from their own BandCamp page (and don’t forget to visit their online merch store as there’s a lot of cool stuff there waiting for you). In a nutshell, the music crafted by Sunay, Riccardo and Desderoth in Antim Sanskar is truly unique and captivating, proving once again that good metal music has no boundaries, and leaving us eager for the next step in their short career in our world of death and doom.

Best moments of the album: The Feral Child and Window of Doom.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Funeral Without Goodbyes 2:56
2. The Feral Child 9:51
3. Embers of the Ancient Flame 7:49
4. Interlude 2:48
5. Window of Doom 8:12
6. DRC 6:01
7. Die, Decay, Disintegrate 4:54

Band members
Sunay Bhat – vocals
Riccardo Veronese – rhythm and lead guitars
Desderoth – bass, keyboards, drums

Album Review – Skverna Liniya / In a Garland of Wax (2021)

Behold the debut full-length album by this uncanny Russian Progressive and Atmospheric Black Metal entity, representing the breakdown of the worldview, spiritual torments and the path of self-destruction.

Forged in the fires of Voronezh, a city on the Voronezh River in southwestern Russia, Progressive/Atmospheric Black Metal entity Skverna Liniya (or Скверна Линия, which translates from Russian as something like “dirty line”) is set to unleash upon humanity their debut full-length album In a Garland of Wax (or В венке из воска), following up on their 2020 EP Snowfall. Mixed and mastered by Mikhail Kurochkin and displaying a stylish artwork by innersys32, In a Garland of Wax is based on the lyrics of Boris Poplavsky (1903-1935), a Russian poet in exile whose work was focused on the soul’s withering and searching in a hostile environment, loneliness and fear in coming into contact with reality. Representing the breakdown of the worldview, spiritual torments and the path of self-destruction, the album is a must-listen for all admirers of atmospheric and extreme music, carefully brought into being by multi-instrumentalists Sergey Chirkov and Andrey Pospelov supported by guest musicians Roman Graver on harsh vocals, Konstantin Bers on clean vocals and Ivan Salo on drums.

The Rustle of Smoldering Life (Шорох тлеющей жизни) sounds and feels atmospheric and enfolding from the very first note, with Ivan and Roman kicking some ass with their respective beats and roars, therefore providing Sergey and Andrey all they need to thrive with their riffage (not to mention the song’s ethereal finale), whereas How Cold It Is. The Empty Soul Keeps Silence… (Как холодно. Молчит душа пустая…) already begins in full force with Roman screaming rabidly nonstop while the strident, piercing riffs by the band’s guitar duo add a touch of progressiveness to the music, resulting in a modern-day Black Metal extravaganza spiced up by the phantasmagorical clean vocals by Konstantin. Then get ready for over seven minutes of first-class Atmospheric Black Metal made in Russia in Green Horror (Зеленый ужас), showcasing a somber ambience to the sound of the crisp guitars by Sergey and Andrey while Roman roars manically for our total delight. The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse… (Пылал закат над сумасшедшим домом…) brings forward sheer devastation and progressiveness, with Ivan sounding infuriated behind his drums accompanied by the thunderous bass punches by Sergey, flowing into an instrumental and utterly atmospheric Interlude (Интерлюдия) that will captivate our senses before the band crushes our souls one last time with the instrumental aria titled In Forgotten Wide Spaces (На забытых просторах), where the keys by Sergey bring a touch of finesse to their Doom Metal-infused sonority.

If you want to know more about this up-and-coming entity hailing from Mother Russia, go check what they’re up to on their official Facebook page, and of course don’t forget to also show your utmost support to the Russian underground by purchasing your copy of In a Garland of Wax from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Beverina Productions’ BandCamp page, from the Casus Belli Musica’s BandCamp page, or from the BMC Productions’ BandCamp page. And after putting your hands on such dense and enfolding album of extreme music, get ready to be dragged into the Stygian realms ruled by Skverna Liniya for all eternity, and have your soul consumed by darkness while you follow this musical one-way path to self-destruction.

Best moments of the album: The Rustle of Smoldering Life and The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse…

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Casus Belli Musica/Beverina Productions

Track listing
1. The Rustle of Smoldering Life (Шорох тлеющей жизни) 6:14
2. How Cold It Is. The Empty Soul Keeps Silence… (Как холодно. Молчит душа пустая…) 4:22
3. Green Horror (Зеленый ужас) 7:30
4. The Sunset Blazed O’er The Madhouse… (Пылал закат над сумасшедшим домом…) 5:55
5. Interlude (Интерлюдия) 2:03
6. In Forgotten Wide Spaces (На забытых просторах) 8:17

Band members
Sergey Chirkov – guitars, bass, keys
Andrey Pospelov – guitars, additional bass on “The Rustle of Smoldering Life”

Guest musicians
Roman Graver – harsh vocals
Konstantin Bers – clean vocals
Ivan Salo – drums

Album Review – Muertissima / Inquisition (2021)

Let the inquisition begin to the sound of the dynamic and pulverizing debut opus by this demented Death Metal act from France.

Hailing from the always beautiful and charming Paris, France, a demented Death Metal horde that goes by the curious name of Muertissima (which would translate from Spanish as something like “very dead”) is ready to attack armed with their debut opus, entitled Inquisition, highly recommended for fans of the music by bands the likes of At the Gates, Carcass and Morbid Angel. Passionate about all genres of Extreme Metal, guitarist Stephane Prados composed the majority of the songs without imposing any constraints of styles or structures, which ended up giving the album a dynamic Death Metal vibe combined with Black and Thrash Metal nuances to generate an original old school sound. Recorded at Lower Tones Place Studio, Inquisition is the perfect welcome card by the aforementioned Stephane and his henchmen Simon Perrin on vocals and bass, Matthias “Macchabée” Bonhoure on the guitar, and Cédric Dupuy on drums, leaving you completely disoriented after its almost 50 minutes of savagery are over.

Cédric begins hammering his drums like a demented beast in the opening tune Lockdown, accompanied by the sick riffage and guttural roars of his bandmates, whereas Simon continues to growl manically in Rise and Fight, another pulverizing display of the band’s classic Death Metal that will inspire you to slam your cranial skull into the circle pit. The rumbling bass by Simon is gradually joined by the razor-edged riffs by Matthias and Stephane in Cerveza, a true headbanger spearheaded by the massive beats by Cédric that should work perfectly when played live, followed by the title-track Inquisition, another Death Metal onrush provided by the quartet with Simon’s screams getting more and more demented as the music progresses, also presenting some welcome elements from Groove and Progressive Death Metal. And it’s time for more insanity in the form of extreme music with Godslayer, where the band’s guitar duo sounds utterly infernal with their axes supported by the rumbling bass by Simon and the always vicious beats by Cédric.

There’s no time to breathe as Muertissima keep crushing us all in Glory to Loki, another solid tune where their Cannibal Corpse-inspired guitars walk hand in hand with the demonic gnarls by Simon, and never slowing down nor selling out, Cédric’s hellish drums provide the rest of the band all they need to be even more ferocious with their respective instruments in Wild Hunt. Composing a Death Metal song that’s seven minutes long is a risky move, but Muertissima did a very decent job in Shooting Gallery, providing some interesting breaks and variations amidst their usual aggressiveness, with both Matthias and Stephane dictating the rhythm with their unstoppable guitars. They surpass the seven-minute barrier one more time in Prometeus, where Simon roars with tons of anger and hatred in his heart supported by the rest of the band, and the music remains heavy, dense, obscure and caustic until the very last second. Finally, sinister, acoustic guitars and the sound of the ocean are the main ingredients in Libertad, the most unique song of the album where the band seems to be inspired by classic Spanish music, resulting in a nice surprise despite not being Death Metal at all.

In a nutshell, the unstoppable Muertissima offer in Inquisition exactly what any fan of underground Death Metal is looking for, sounding sharp, straight to the point and electrified from the very first second of the album until its eccentric ending, positioning them as one of the most interesting new names of the French scene. Hence, don’t forget to give the guys from Muertissima a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and above that, to purchase your copy of Inquisition from countless locations including Rock Metal Market, Wow HD, Barnes & Noble, Fnac, Cultura, Waterloo Records, and The Record Exchange. And then simply hit play and let the fires of the band’s inquisition of old school Death Metal burn your soul for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Cerveza, Godslayer and Prometeus.

Worst moments of the album: Wild Hunt.

Released in 2021 Music-Records

Track listing
1. Lockdown 4:41
2. Rise and Fight 3:27
3. Cerveza 4:46
4. Inquisition 4:42
5. Godslayer 4:37
6. Glory to Loki 4:18
7. Wild Hunt 4:24
8. Shooting Gallery 7:28
9. Prometeus 7:05
10. Libertad 4:21

Band members
Simon Perrin – vocals, bass
Matthias “Macchabée” Bonhoure – lead guitar
Stephane Prados – rhythm guitar
Cédric Dupuy – drums

Album Review – Lady Beast / Omens EP (2021)

Bang your head nonstop to the straight-to-the-point new EP of pure Heavy Metal by this fantastic Pittsburgh-based band, sprinkling a dust on the poisoned path from which they summit.

The stunning Deborah Levine and her bandmates Andy Ramage and Chris Tritschler on the guitars, Amy Bianco on bass and Adam Ramage on drums, collective known as Pittsburgh, United States-based Heavy Metal outfit Lady Beast, are back in action now in 2021 with a short and sweet EP entitled Omens, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2020 album The Vulture’s Amulet, featuring four original tracks plus a very special cover song that transpire pure Heavy Metal throughout the EP’s almost 20 minutes of music. Sprinkling a dust on the poisoned path from which Lady Beast summit, Omens is highly recommended for admirers of the NWOBHM combined with the badass music and rockin’ attitude by Motörhead, Thin Lizzy and Mercyful Fate, among others, providing newcomers to their metallic realm a very good sample of what the band has been delivering to their fans since their inception in 2009, and of what we can expect from such talented crew in their future releases.

The Poisoned Path already brings pure Heavy Metal to our avid ears, with its old school lyrics declaimed by Deborah (“I go out in the dark, / I whisper to the night… / A voice, it soon replies… / Secure a candles flame, / and sharpen up your blade. / Follow me down the poisoned path I’ve made.”) making things even more exciting, while Amy kicks some ass with her low-tuned bass. Then it’s time for more of the band’s melodic sounds in Reaper, with Andy being on fire with his riffs and solos accompanied by his guitar comrade Chris, feeling utterly inspired by the classic music by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest; and they continue to travel through the golden years of rock and metal in Blood For Blood, with Adam smashing his drums in great fashion while Deborah mesmerizes us all once again with her sharp and captivating vocals. After such powerful tune, Lady Beast pay a high-octane tribute to the one and only Rainbow with their electrifying rendition for the undisputed classic Kill the King (you can check the original song HERE), with Deborah and the boys (and girl) being on fire from start to finish, specially Andy and Chris who deliver together sheer awesomeness through their guitars. Last but not least, let’s bang our heads once again to the pounding drums by Adam in the thrilling The Fool’s Journey, showcasing incendiary riffs and solos supported by the rumbling bass by Amy, therefore providing Deborah all she needs to shine on vocals.

If you want to give Omens a spin, you can find the EP in its entirety on YouTube, but of course in order to show your true support to underground Heavy Metal you should definitely purchase a copy of it from the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as from the Reaper Metal Productions’ webstore in regular CD format or as an ass-kicking 12″ LP on screen printed black/white splatter vinyl that comes with a 11×11 two sided insert with band photo and lyrics (and as side A is the only playable side, on side B is a screen printed image in metallic silver ink). Also, don’t forget to give the band a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their first-class music and stylish videos. I guess I don’t need to explain that the omens found in Lady Beast’s new EP are all beyond good, but just in case you don’t believe me, simply hit play and let this fantastic beast from Pittsburgh show you how heavy music should be played. I bet you’ll instantly fall in love for their music.

Best moments of the album: Kill the King and The Fool’s Journey.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Reaper Metal Productions

Track listing
1. The Poisoned Path 3:26
2. Reaper 3:50
3. Blood For Blood 3:34
4. Kill the King (Rainbow cover) 4:17
5. The Fool’s Journey 4:25

Band members
Deborah Levine – vocals
Andy Ramage – lead guitar
Chris Tritschler – rhythm guitar
Amy Bianco – bass
Adam Ramage – drums

Collectibles Review – Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box

Do you want to know what’s inside the most discussed box of the current metal scene?

As I mentioned in the review for Senjutsu, the superb new album by Heavy Metal institution Iron Maiden, it’s time for a detailed review of the most hyped, important and desired box in the heavy music scene at the moment, the Senjutsu FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box. And before I begin talking about the box and each one of its items, let me remind you that this is NOT the Senjutsu Super Deluxe Boxset available at retail. While they may look similar, the FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box is very different, being a handcrafted, lacquered wooden box that contains unique items that can’t be found anywhere else, and of course it was only available to members of The Iron Maiden Fan Club.

Just to give you an overview of what the box is and how it was going to be sold to the public, the first time all members of the IMFC heard about it was on July 20 when we received the Letters from the Rue Morgue #18 from the IMFC, informing us the box was going to be exclusive to us members regardless of what country we’re in, and that we would have plenty of notice for when the pre-sale of the box was going to happen. The IMFC also informed us that the box was going to be extremely limited and there would be only 2021 made, therefore limiting those to one per member (any attempt to order more than one box would be cancelled). The boxes then went on sale on Friday August 13, being released in two batches via the FC shop in order to give people in different time zones a fair chance to order, with the first batch going live at 10:00am BST and the second batch at 5:30pm BST. The total cost of the box already included shipping (it didn’t matter where in the world the buyer was located), and the IMFC also informed they would do their best to ensure that orders arrived on or before September 3, the day Senjutsu was officially released, but of course keeping in mind that Covid-19 and customs-related delays were beyond their control.

As I’m located in Toronto, Canada, I had to wake up at 4:30am ET (which is the same as 9:30am BST) to be able to buy the box in the first batch, and fortunately I succeeded despite the sales happening on a Friday the 13th. It wasn’t easy, though, as the payment process took forever to go through, but thanks to the information provided by other Maidenmaniacs from the IMFC forum who were able to buy the box all I had to do was to keep hitting the “process payment” button without refreshing the page, because as soon as the box was in my shopping cart it was mine unless I didn’t pay for it or cancelled the purchase, of course. It was indeed a fun ride, and after that it was the excitement for the album release on September 3 and the arrival of the famous box. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond what the IMFC could do, the box didn’t arrive on September 3, but only on September 7, which in the end wasn’t a big deal as I used Spotify to enjoy Senjutsu for hours (and hours and hours) until receiving the CD version of the album with the box.

Having said all that, how about reviewing each item on its own and providing some sort of rating from 0 to 10 to each one of them? There are also pictures of each item for you to know exactly what I’m talking about, and see why this is indeed a one-of-a-kind offer from Iron Maiden to us loyal fans.

1. The CD digipak version of Senjutsu

Comments: Everything that had to be said about the album itself can be found in our Senjutsu review HERE, but of course it’s always a pleasure to grab a physical album with your own hands, and Senjutsu is a thing of beauty, from its double cover artwork with two ass-kicking samurai Eddies to its very detailed booklet. I highly recommend you grab a physical copy of the album, that being the CD, the LP or any other available version of it.
Rating: 10/10

2. The Blu-Ray digipak of The Writing On The Wall, including a making-of video and sleeve notes

Comments: Not only the Blu-Ray comes with the two versions of the official video for the song (the original one and the fantastic SFX Version), but there’s also an over 40-minute making-of showing all details of how the video was done, the ideas and stories behind it, and so on. Put differently, it’s a true must-watch for any Iron Maiden fan or any fan of arts in general (and the booklet on its own is already awesome).
Rating: 10/10

3. A decorated board portfolio containing the following:

  • 4. A Japanese hanko-style Eddie stamp, made of teak and engraved, in an engraved teak case.
    Comments: The Eddie stamp is a beautiful piece of art, a nice add-on to the box that is very useful if you want to customize your letters and documents. My only complaint is that the ink that comes with it is not enough to last for a long time, and I also saw some fans complaining their ink was too dry when they got their boxes.
    Rating: 9.0/10
  • 5. An exclusive Mark Wilkinson print, signed and stamped by the man himself
    Comments: This one is just a different version of the samurai Eddie from the album art, or maybe I should say an expanded one, signed by the artist responsible for drawing it. And that’s it. Framing it and hanging it on your wall is highly recommended, otherwise there’s no much usage for it.
    Rating: 8.0/10
  • 6. A unique artwork print in Japan’s Ukiyo-e tradition illustrated by Masumi Ishikawa, who previously created 2 pieces of Iron Maiden ukiyo-e works.
    Comments: This is my favorite of the items from the decorated portfolio, as it’s not only gorgeous with all of its colors making it a unique piece of art, but it’s also perfect for framing and displaying on your wall. And if you search online for more of the work by Masumi Ishikawa you’ll see that guy is a beast when armed with his illustration kit.
    Rating: 10/10

Overall Comments: All items that came with the portfolio are outstanding and cannot be replicated or found anywhere else but inside the FC box, and that’s why the box is more than recommended for all Iron Maiden stuff collectors out there.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10

7. An Eddie lenticular

Comments: This is a tricky one, as although it’s quite cool to have an Eddie lenticular, let’s say it’s no something as exclusive as the other items from the box. You can find very high-end lenticulars pretty much anywhere. They just might not be as badass as Eddie, of course.
Rating: 8.5/10

8. A Japanese-style tsuba – a decorated metal sword hilt typically worn by the Samurai
Comments: This is one of my favorite items of the FC box, and the only reason I’m not giving it a 10 is because now I need a samurai sword to add it to. Apart from that (and you probably noticed I’m just joking), it’s a very well-crafted metal piece that lives up to the Japanese-inspired theme of the album.
Rating: 9.5/10

9. A Senjutsu Eddie pendant necklace

Comments: Another distinguished addition to the FC box. I bet whoever was able to buy the box will be proudly wearing the pendant during next year’s Iron Maiden concerts, with the only issue for me being the necklace that comes with it. A more durable, metal one would have been perfect.
Rating: 9.0/10

10. A printed canvas banner with wooden ends

Comments: If you have a wall to hang it, just do it, as the banner is awesome and will give an extra fiery touch to your decoration. It would have been flawless if it was made of some type of cloth instead of the regular banner material used, but it’s already great the way it is.
Rating: 9.0/10

11. And last but not least, a certificate of authenticity presented in an envelope inspired by Japanese celebratory Shugi Bukuro envelopes and featuring an intricate bow: a mizuhiki

Comments: At the same time some people might say this is just “paper”, it’s one of the most significant items of the box, as it’s not only extremely detailed and delicate, but each certificate is unique to its owner. It deserves a 10 out of 10 hands down.
Rating: 10/10

Overall, the Senjutsu FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box is a 10 out of 10 (or in the case of The Headbanging Moose, a 5 out of 5 skulls), representing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for lovers of everything Iron Maiden who are members of the IMFC to add something absolutely different from anything else they might have in their personal collections. There have been multiple reports of damaged boxes all around the world, unfortunately, plus the fact that even the ones that arrived to their buyers in pristine conditions (like mine) had the interior red cardboard divider slightly damaged, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it’s cost. Just like what happens in any project, there was obviously a considerable probability a few issues would happen along the way with the Senjutsu FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box, mostly with the delivery part of the whole process; however, the guys from the IMFC are making sure they fix the issues reported to them, replace the damaged boxes and so on, so that all of us box buyers get beyond happy with our recent acquisition. In other words, if you have the FC box, enjoy it as much as you can while listening to Senjutsu… and UP THE IRONS!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On a side note, have you seen the new animated video for the song Stratego? It might have little to do with the FC box, but I thought it would be awesome to add it here for you guys.

Album Review – Svartulven / Ruins of Desolation, Transcendence for the Other Side (2021)

Immerse yourself into the 40 minutes of Orthodox Black Metal split into seven obscure arias carefully crafted by an up-and-coming horde from the Hellenic Republic.

3.5rating

If you’re an admirer of the darkest side of extreme music it’s time for you to enjoy some Orthodox Black Metal made in Greece in the vein of Misotheist and Ascension, courtesy of an occult and mystic entity known as Svartulven armed with their debut opus entitled Ruins of Desolation, Transcendence for the Other Side. Mixed by Nikos Trialonis at Goblin’s Lair Studios in Greece, mastered by V.Santura at Woodshed Studio in Germany, and displaying a cryptic cover artwork by Adrian Baxter, the album brings forward 40 minutes of ass-kicking Black Metal split into seven obscure arias carefully crafted by this up-and-coming horde from the Hellenic Republic.

Arising from the depths of the underworld, this uncanny band comes ripping with their phantasmagorical sounds in Witness of Fire Beyond, with its venomous roars and strident riffs penetrating deep inside your psyche in a great display of sulfurous Black Metal, whereas Svartulven in Twilight begins in full force with its pounding drums hammering our cranial skulls mercilessly, also displaying an amazing fusion of visceral screams with some background vocalizations and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of a more progressive and diverse style of Black Metal. And continuing their path of devastation, obscurity and evil, Svartulven deliver the straightforward extravaganza Therianthropic Metamorphosis, again presenting classic blast beats, Stygian guitars, low-tuned bass lines, and a crushing sense of despair that permeates the air until the very last second.

The Parable of Abel offers us all five minutes of sheer darkness in the form of old school Black Metal, or in other words, it’s another amazing example of what the band is capable of doing, with the song’s razor-edged riffs generating a pulverizing paradox with its groovy bass jabs. Back to a more classic sound, Herald of Eternal Damnation presents a mid-tempo start spearheaded by their always harsh vociferations that explodes into an avalanche of brutality and violence, resulting in a lecture in Black Metal by such talented Hellenic outfit. Their second to last onrush of extreme music comes in the form of Feast for the Black Earth, again showcasing a heavier-than-hell kitchen, a sinister atmosphere and sharp riffs for our total delight, before the band crushes us one last time with The Crystal Scythe of the Old, a beyond caustic composition where its wicked vocals and a disturbing ambience will haunt our damned souls until all fades into the unknown.

The gates to the Hellenic underworld are open thanks to Svartulven and their Ruins of Desolation, Transcendence for the Other Side, and in order to join them in their quest for extreme music you can start following the band on Facebook and on Instagram, and soon purchase a copy of their austere new album from Dark Terror Temple’s BandCamp page or webstore, proving you’re a true servant of darkness. Although the names of the musicians that are part of such distinguished horde are unknown, in the end that’s just a minor detail taking into account the high quality of the music found in their debut effort, and they can keep their identities as secret as they want as long as they keep delivering more of their incendiary Black Metal for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Svartulven in Twilight and Herald of Eternal Damnation.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Dark Terror Temple/The Chalice Prod

Track listing
1. Witness of Fire Beyond 7:01
2. Svartulven in Twilight 4:59
3. Therianthropic Metamorphosis 6:30
4. The Parable of Abel 5:15
5. Herald of Eternal Damnation 4:19
6. Feast for the Black Earth 4:35
7. The Crystal Scythe of the Old 6:01

Band members
*Information not available*

Album Review – Sepulchre by the Sea / Ratiocination EP (2021)

Bristol, UK’s own Atmospheric Black Metal one-man army returns with a classy new EP inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Ratiocinations detective stories.

3.0rating

sepulchre-by-the-sea-ratiocination-ep-2021Less than one year after the release of the full-length opus Conqueror Worm, the talented Bristol, UK-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Shannon and his Atmospheric Black Metal alter-ego Sepulchre by the Sea are back in action with a brand new EP, entitled Ratiocinations. Recorded during the winter lockdown and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Ratiocinations detective stories, this 26-minute EP brings to our avid ears another round of the dense, dark and absolutely captivating sound carefully crafted by Ash, keeping the gears of Sepulchre by the Sea turning smoothly and providing us a very good indication of the path that the project will follow with its upcoming releases.

A cinematic intro warms up the listener for the darkness that’s about to explode in Ghost of the Departed, with Ash screaming like a demonic entity nonstop while he extracts razor-edged riffs from his guitar at the same time. Put differently, this is classic Atmospheric Back Metal made in the UK, flowing smoothly until its Stygian finale; and Ash fires another dense and incendiary tune titled Beast Made Flesh, presenting elements of Scandinavian Black Metal added to its core. Moreover, Ash is simply on fire with his blast beats, mayhemic riffage and infernal growling, resulting in a more obscure and heavier sound than in the opening track. Lastly, get ready for 12 minutes of undisputed Atmospheric Black Metal in the form of the title-track Ratiocinations, with a gentle intro morphing into a demented feast of blast beats and sick guitar lines by Ash. It’s by far one of his strongest and most detailed creations to date, a multi-layered aria of darkness sounding like three or four songs in one due to all of its unique passages, breaks and variations, therefore putting a climatic ending to the EP.

sepulchre-by-the-sea-logo-2021Ash and his Sepulchre by the Sea are waiting for you on Facebook and on Instagram (and I’m sure he’ll love to hear what you have to say about his music), and don’t forget to also stream all of his first-class creations on Spotify and, above all that, to purchase Ratiocinations from his own BandCamp page or by clicking HERE. It’s always a pleasure seeing different bands and projects drawing inspiration from such important writers and poets the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, and in the case of Ash and Sepulchre by the Sea we can already say it’s getting harder and harder to identify if it’s a metal band inspired by Poe’s undisputed work or if it’s Poe’s poetry turned into top-of-the-line metal music, proving how talented Ash is and, consequently, leaving us eager for another round of his atmospheric creations in the near future.

Best moments of the album: Ratiocinations.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing   
1. Ghost of the Departed 8:24
2. Beast Made Flesh 5:45
3. Ratiocinations 12:00

Band members
Ashley Shannon – vocals, all instruments

Album Review – Nordicwinter / Sorrow (2021)

An unstoppable one-man army from Canada examines the darker side of the human condition in his beautiful new album of Atmospheric and Depressive Black Metal.

3.5rating

nordicwinter-sorrow-2021After a lengthy hiatus, Quebec, Canada-based Atmospheric Depressive Black Metal one-man horde Nordicwinter came back in a big way in 2020, releasing two new full-length albums (Requiem and Desolation) and showing no sign of slowing down as the project hits us once again with a new full-length album, entitled Sorrow, released amidst the dead of winter. Produced and engineered by the Nordicwinter’s mastermind Evillair (aka Yves Allaire, who’s also responsible for all vocals, all instruments, drum programming, production, engineering, songwriting and lyrics), recorded, mixed an mastered at Dirgevows Studios, and featuring a somber cover image by Melissa Parker, Sorrow examines the darker side of the human condition through somber and melancholic music sticking at a mostly mid-tempo pace, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the music by bands the likes of Xasthur, Austere, NONE and Nocturnal Depression.

And Evillair begins his atmospheric and melancholic journey with Somber Winds of Despair (Part I), showcasing enfolding guitars and a dark vibe, exploding into top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal with the anguished roars by our one-man army penetrating deep inside your soul; whereas beauty and melancholy flow from Evillair’s words (“I see your cold corpse / Laying upon the crimson leaves / I hear the lost song / Whispered by the dismal breeze”) in Sullen Echoes, while the music offers our ears a sinister fusion of Blackened Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal. Then more of his Stygian sounds invade our ears in In This Darkness…, where his incendiary, classic Black Metal riffs will burn your skin mercilessly in paradox with the song’s bitterly cold background, not to mention his gnarls get more and more demonic as the music progresses.

This Mournful Dirge brings to our ears another round of his dark poetry (“In dismal veils of snow / I fade into this tomb / As fading memories / Whisper eternal gloom”) amidst a somber atmosphere in a great display of Depressive Black Metal, followed by Dying Winters, where a beyond embracing start will drag you into the cold lands ruled by Nordicwinter and with Evillair doing a great job with both his growls and riffs, all spiced up by the programmed drums (which sound truly organic, by the way). And what kicked off such intense album is completed with Somber Winds of Despair (Part II), again showcasing sharp but at the same time delicate guitars, venomous, introspective vocals, and a sense of hopelessness permeating the air until the very last second. In other words, a simply stunning creation by Evillair and his Nordicwinter, ending in a more than hypnotizing way and flowing into Enshrined by Solitude, a funereal, depressive outro that will darken your thoughts as the storm gets closer and closer.

nordicwinter-evillair-2021You can easily join Evillair and his Nordicwinter by streaming Sorrow in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, savoring every second of its over 50 minutes of solitude and introspectiveness, but don’t forget to also follow the project on Facebook and on Instagram for news and other nice-to-know details about this lone wolf of the Great White North, and above all that, to purchase a copy of the album from the project’s own BandCamp page, from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp page or webstore (as a regular CD or as a very special bundle), from Apple Music or from Amazon. In a nutshell, Evillair more than succeeded in providing us his view of the darker side of the human condition through his music, leaving us eager for more of his stunning Black Metal in a not-so-distant future.

Best moments of the album: In This Darkness… and Somber Winds of Despair (Part II).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing  
1. Somber Winds of Despair (Part I) 7:27
2. Sullen Echoes 9:20
3. In This Darkness… 7:28
4. This Mournful Dirge 8:43
5. Dying Winters 9:36
6. Somber Winds of Despair (Part II) 8:11
7. Enshrined by Solitude 2:39

Band members
Evillair – vocals, all instruments, drum programming

Album Review – Iron Maiden / Senjutsu (2021)

Behold another masterpiece by the one and only Iron Maiden with its 82 minutes of tactics, strategy, war, resilience and determination in the form of majestic Heavy Metal.

5.0rating

iron-maiden-senjutsu-2021“Have you seen the writing on the wall?”

The wait is finally over. After nearly six years, Senjutsu (or 戦術 in Japanese, loosely translated as “tactics and strategy”), the seventeenth studio album by British Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden, has finally seen the light of day, and let me tell you each second waiting for such masterpiece was absolutely worth it. Marking the longest gap between two Iron Maiden studio albums following The Book of Souls from 2015, Senjutsu is also the band’s second double album, again using their original logotype (with the extended letters R, M and N) like in The Book of Souls, their first studio album since their 1984 cult album Powerslave to have no songwriting contributions from Dave Murray in any way, and the first since their 1998 opus Virtual XI to feature multiple songs written by Steve Harris alone. Once again recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, produced by Kevin Shirley, co-produced by Steve Harris, and displaying a formidable samurai version of our beloved Eddie on the artwork designed by Mark Wilkinson (with the name of the album rendered on the right side of the cover art by the actual vertical Japanese spelling of “senjutsu” and on the left side by a font reminiscent of Japanese characters), Senjutsu takes the band back to the darker and edgier sound from albums the likes of The X-Factor, A Matter of Life and Death, The Final Frontier and The Book of Souls, showcasing another brilliant work done by the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain.

Traditional Japanese drums ignite the obscure and introspective title-track Senjutsu, offering us Maidenmaniacs over eight minutes of epicness to properly kick things off with Bruce already mesmerizing us all with his unique voice. Moreover, I love how his vocals walk hand in hand with the guitars by Dave, Adrian and Janick, not to mention the song’s ritualistic vibe (similar to what they did in their previous album with “If Eternity Should Fail”), followed by the already known tune Stratego with its lyrics full of metaphors about how hard it is for anyone to face their own lives (“How do you read a madman’s mind / Teach me the art of war / For I shall bring more / Than you bargained for”), while Nicko and Steve take care of that amazing galloping sound that became the band’s trademark, not to mention the song’s stunning guitar solos. Then we have The Writing on the Wall, the first single of the album which you might have probably listened to countless times already, where a country and southern vibe together with its catchy-as-hell chorus declaimed by Bruce (“Have you seen the writing on the wall / Have you seen that writing / Can you see the riders on the storm / Can you see them riding / Can you see them riding… Riding next to you”) turn it into the perfect option for hitting the road with your loved ones.

Lost in a Lost World brings forward another sinister intro to the sound of acoustic guitars that feels like it was taken from one of Bruce’s solo albums, exploding into a fusion of The X-Factor, Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death with a lot of elements from Progressive Rock and Metal added to their core sonority, and with Steve’s bass lines being superb as usual, punching you right in your face, whereas back to a heavier sound we’re treated to the mid-tempo, rockin’ feast titled Days of Future Past, again blending classic Iron Maiden with Bruce’s solo material and displaying an amazing job done by the band’s guitar triumvirate accompanied by the pounding drums by an inspired Nicko. Needless to say, it will sound amazing if added to their live performances. Then beginning in a similar way as The Final Frontier’s “The Talisman”, The Time Machine presents a more cadenced pace with the background keys by Steve complementing the sharp work by the guitar boys, evolving into a sick galloping and diverse extravaganza halfway through it; and the sound of the ocean brings comfort to our hearts before Iron Maiden once again hypnotize us all in Darkest Hour, a somber ballad in the vein of A Matter of Life and Death’s “Out of the Shadows” but with a stronger vibe, all spiced up by their undisputed, soulful guitar solos.

iron-maiden-senjutsu-super-deluxe-boxset

Iron Maiden Senjutsu Super Deluxe Boxset

The last batch of songs from Senjutsu was entirely written by Steve Harris, and let me tell you it’s a flawless lesson in rock and metal music, starting with his undisputed bass lines in Death of the Celts, being gradually joined by Nicko and the rest of the crew. What a bold, multi-layered metal voyage by the band, overflowing epicness, progressiveness and electricity nonstop, spearheaded by the rumbling kitchen by Steve and Nicko, of course. And you better get ready for over 12 minutes of majestic Heavy Metal in the form of The Parchment, once again beginning in a serene, cryptic manner and evolving into a very progressive mid-tempo sound. Bruce’s vocals are utterly imposing and epic from start to finish, with Dave, Janick and Adrian being on total fire with their stringed axes. And lastly, Hell on Earth is a song that gave me goosebumps from the very first second, as soon as I started listening to it, feeling like “The Aftermath” from The X-Factor but at the same time a lot more intricate and powerful, with Steve and Nicko taking the lead while Dave, Adrian and Janick deliver sheer melody through their incendiary riffs, providing Bruce all he needs to flawlessly tell the story proposed in the song until all fades into the unknown in a somber and climatic manner. In other words, thank you, Mr. Steve Harris, for being so awesome.

iron-maiden-2021To be fair, there are no actual words I can choose to describe all the darkness, the energy, the details and the intricacy found in Senjutsu. It’s simply incredible how Iron Maiden managed to deliver such masterpiece without sounding outdated, repetitive or bland after so many decades on the road, leaving us all eager for another studio album, for their next tour, for more Eddies and so on, even knowing all members are in their 60’s already (as a matter of fact, Nicko is almost 70). Not only that, the way they promoted the new album on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube from day one, including the fun ride that was “Belshazzar’s Feast” (a story from the Book of Daniel in the Bible, also known as ​“the story of the writing on the wall”, with the initials WOTW cropping up in a lot of Iron Maiden-related places), was beyond entertaining, proving the band trespassed the barriers of music with Senjutsu. Furthermore, this is also one of those situations where buying the physical album, despite the fact we live in a digital world, is almost mandatory, especially if you go for the Super Deluxe Boxset, or even better, for the FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box, which will deserve its own review as soon as I receive it next week. And now please excuse me, as I need to get back to Senjutsu and listen to it another billion times on a loop for the foreseeable future, just the way it’s supposed to be when the band in question is the almighty Iron Maiden.

Best moments of the album: Senjutsu, Days of Future Past, Death of the Celts, The Parchment and Hell on Earth.

Worst moments of the album: I’m still trying to find one.

Released in 2021 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing 
1. Senjutsu 8:20
2. Stratego 4:59
3. The Writing on the Wall 6:13
4. Lost in a Lost World 9:31
5. Days of Future Past 4:03
6. The Time Machine 7:09
7. Darkest Hour 7:20
8. Death of the Celts 10:20
9. The Parchment 12:39
10. Hell on Earth 11:19

FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box/Super Deluxe Boxset Bonus Disc (Blu-ray)
1.The Writing on the Wall documentary

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Album Review – Malacoda / The Strain EP (2021)

Inspired by the works of Guillermo Del Toro, this Canadian entity is unleashing upon us all their second EP of the year, delving even further into their horror inspired roots.

3.0rating

malacoda-the-strain-ep-2021After the releases of their debut self-titled album in 2015, the EP Ritualis Aeterna in 2016, the full-length opus Restless Dreams in 2018, and the EP Crawling Chaos earlier this year, Oakville, Canada-based metal band Malacoda continues to deliver their fusion of Gothic, Power, Symphonic, Melodic and Progressive Metal for our total delight with their second EP of the year, entitled The Strain. Recorded, mixed and mastered by the band’s own founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Di Mascio at Old Haunt Recording Studio,  and displaying a goth artwork by Yeganeh Ghasemi featuring model Goddess Ov Death, The Strain is inspired by the works of the one and only Guillermo Del Toro, delving even further into the band’s horror inspired roots and bringing forward all the talent of the aforementioned Lucas together with guitarist Wes MacDonald and bassist Zak Stulla, not to mention an array of guest musicians to make the EP even more compelling.

The title-track The Strain already begins in full force to the symphonic and epic keys by Lucas while guest drummer Andrew Suarez (Bangin Productions, Fatality) showcases all his dexterity behind his drum set, adding an extra touch of heaviness to the music, and also presenting elements from Doom and classic Heavy Metal with Lucas delivering his Ghost/Candlemass/Mercyful Fate-inspired vocals. Then featuring additional vocals by Beth Wilson and with Lucas taking care of the drumming duties, Crimson Peak is a slower but heavy-as-hell and obscure creation where Wes extracts sheer darkness from his riffage and solo, accompanied by the melodic, rumbling bass by Zak; whereas investing into a more progressive sonority were treated to Where Shadows Play, another solid tune by the band to also feature additional vocals by Beth Wilson, with Lucas and Beth making a great vocal duo while guest drummer Victor Boechat smashes his drums mercilessly from start to finish. And lastly, a very melodic and introspective intro morphs into the Gothic Rock and Metal feast entitled Mind Flayer, featuring drummer Ryan Claxton (This Is Death Valley) and additional vocals by Wes, while Lucas presents both his powerful clean vocals and his demonic gnarls from start to finish.

malacoda-2021You can stream the full EP on Spotify, show your support to Malacoda by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and click HERE for all social media, links to buy their music and merch, videos and so on. “There really is a balance of dark aggression and beauty in these songs,” stated Lucas about the band’s new EP, complementing by saying that “that’s been the consistent tone with these four tracks – keeping it dark but letting some tender spots poke through.” And let’s say Lucas nailed it, with his words precisely describing the music found in The Strain and, consequently, inviting us all to join him and his henchmen in the dark realm ruled by Malacoda, and proving Malacoda are following a healthy and strong musical path, evolving as a band and providing us all fans high-quality metal music made in Canada with each one of their releases.

Best moments of the album: The Strain and Where Shadows Play.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing 
1. The Strain 7:49
2. Crimson Peak 3:51
3. Where Shadows Play 3:51
4. Mind Flayer 5:11

Band members
Lucas Di Mascio – vocals, keys, drums on “Crimson Peak”
Wes MacDonald – guitar, additional background vocals on “Mind Flayer”
Zak Stulla – bass

Guest musicians
Andrew Suarez – drums on “The Strain”
Victor Boechat – drums on “Where Shadows Play”
Ryan Claxton – drums on “Mind Flayer”
Beth Wilson – background vocals on “Crimson Peak” and “Where Shadows Play”