Concert Review – Nervosa & Destruction (Lee’s Palace, Toronto, ON, 05/01/2022)

The German butchers of Thrash Metal struck back in another diabolical night of heavy music in the city of Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: VX36 and Sunlord

There’s nothing better than ending another fun weekend and getting ready for a cold and rainy Monday than a night of pure Thrash and Death Metal, and that’s exactly what several Torontonian metalheads were able to enjoy last night at Lee’s Palace thanks to the ruthless Diabolical North American Tour 2022, with the bands VX36, SUNLORD, NERVOSA and the iconic DESTRUCTION offering their fans exactly what they needed to slam into the pit and raise their horns nonstop. The first band to hit the stage was Geyserville, California-based Thrash/Groove Metal band VX36, led by vocalist and guitarist Nate Klug, who inspired all thrashers at the venue to bang their heads to great songs such as Satan’s Fury and Blood War. That was an excellent start to the night, and I just wish the band had new material to present as everything they played, despite being awesome, was from over seven years ago I believe.

Band members
Nate Klug – vocals, guitar
Gage Higgins – lead guitar, vocals
Nick Altenburg – bass
John Lorence – drums

After a really, really quick break, it was time for Jackson Heights, New York’s own Heavy/Speed Metal trio SUNLORD to kick some ass on stage. Comprised of vocalist, guitarist and founder Alfonso Ferrazza, bassist Ashely Wells and drummer Lamar Little, the band delivered a solid show including the fun songs Forbidden Witch and Turn Me Loose, with Lamar stealing the spotlight with a beyond professional and thrilling performance behind his drums, adding an extra touch of groove and heaviness to the band’s music. In the end, Sunlord might not be as thrash as the other bands from the night, but they definitely proved why they were chosen to open for Nervosa and Destruction with their energy and passion for heavy music.

Band members
Alfonso Ferrazza – vocals, guitars
Ashely Wells – bass
Lamar Little – drums

NERVOSA

Finally, after years and years waiting, I was able to see for the first time ever the all-female thrashing machine NERVOSA pulverizing everything and everyone live on stage. One of the most multinational bands of the current metal scene, as the band is now formed of Spanish frontwoman Diva Satanica, Brazilian guitarist and founder Prika Amaral, Italian bassist Mia Wallace and Greek drummer Eleni Nota, the quartet was infernal with their fusion of Death and Thrash Metal from start to finish, with the stunning Diva Satanica not only showcasing a breathtaking vocal performance, but her stage presence was also a thing of beauty. Still promoting their 2021 opus  Perpetual Chaos, Nervosa made a lot of awesome noise playing songs the likes of Kill the Silence, Masked Betrayer, Into Moshpit, Guided By Evil and Under Ruins, as well as my favorite ones of the night, Genocidal Command, Time to Fight and Rebel Soul, where not only Diva Satanica was flawless on vocals, but Prika, Mia and Eleni were also smashing their instruments in great fashion. I just wish the girls had some time to interact with their fans at their booth (which apparently was reduced to just a few random items as their shirts couldn’t be delivered on time), but again, what really matters is what they do on stage, and they more than succeeded by inflicting that nice pain in our necks due to all headbanging involved.

Band members
Diva Satanica – lead vocals
Prika Amaral – guitar, backing vocals
Mia Wallace – bass
Eleni Nota – drums

DESTRUCTION

Another short break and there they were, German Thrash Metal institution DESTRUCTION, ready to show everyone at Lee’s Palace what old school thrash is all about. Anything I say about the band’s frontman and mastermind Schmier won’t be enough to depict his energy, his charisma and his onstage performance, kicking ass from the very first second and showing absolutely no mercy for our souls armed with his metallic bass and raspy vocals. Blending classics the likes of Nailed to the Cross, Born to Perish, Mad Butcher, Thrash Till Death, Bestial Invasion and The Butcher Strikes Back with songs from their recently released album Diabolical, including the amazing title-track and the pulverizing No Faith in Humanity, Schmier and his henchmen Damir Eskić and Martin Furia on the guitars and Canadian beast Randy Black on drums gave a lecture in Thrash Metal to their fans, showing why they’ve been alive and kicking since their inception in the distant year of 1983. By the way, close to the end of the show, Schmier had some very nice words to say about a guy that was present at the venue who was their first ever North American fan, being the first person in the US and Canada to purchase their 1984 demo Bestial Invasion of Hell. That was a really cool moment, and that guy, who was not too far from where I was standing, seemed deeply touched by such amazing tribute by one of his favorite bands of all time. That’s pure Thrash Metal, and after all was said and done (already past midnight, by the way), we were all certain those Teutonic metallers will return to destroy Toronto once again in a not-so-distant future.

Band members
Schmier – vocals, bass
Damir Eskić – lead guitars
Martin Furia – guitars
Randy Black – drums

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Metal Chick of the Month – Lauren Hart

Scar weaver, sew the flesh on my fears…

It’s time to turn up the heat and beat the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Northern Hemisphere here at The Headbanging Moose with one of the most electrifying women from the current metal scene worldwide. Owner of a beyond powerful, dynamic and versatile voice, she will crush you like an insect not only with her deep roars and stunning clean vocals, but also with her high-octane onstage performance. I’m talking about the multi-talented Lauren Hart, the unstoppable frontwoman for Los Angeles, California-based Groove Metal powerhouse Once Human, setting fire to this month of March and keeping the flames of heavy music burning bright wherever she goes for the total delight of us metalheads.

Born on April 8, 1986 in Anaheim, California, but raised in Australia, Lauren self taught piano as a toddler and guitar by the age of 14, proving she was more than ready for stardom at a very early stage in her life. It was in 2014 when she was discovered by former Senior Vice President of A&R for Roadrunner Records and record producer Monte Conner, who put her in touch with Canadian-American record producer and guitarist Logan Mader for a production deal; after the two met, they decided to start a whole new band and started to work on Once Human. That being said, there’s no Lauren Hart without Once Human and vice-versa, which means we’ll focus on the history of the band for a while before talking about some other specific details about our metal diva.

As aforementioned, Once Human was formed in 2014 in Los Angeles, California by Lauren and Logan, with the band’s current lineup being comprised of guitarist Max Karon, bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Dillon Trollope. In a few of her interviews, Logan explained how Once Human came together. “It all kind of started as soon as I met Logan. I was sent to him because of my video I made, a guitar playing video which was actually pretty shit. I don’t know how I ended up in the hands of these big people but I sat down in the studio with I think was my $99 guitar and my crappy amp and I just started playing these metal riffs and recorded it and put it up on Youtube and Facebook and next thing I know, I’m getting to go into Logan Mader’s studio because I guess Monty Connor (A&R) saw it and he said, ‘Why don’t you try and build something around this girl, let’s have her in and see what happens’. So I came in and straight away we really hit it off and started writing together and I guess he’s normally used to people coming in and wanting to do radio music and a lot more commercial things and I didn’t want any part of that. In fact I didn’t want to do any career singing, I just wanted to do the metal riffs that I love so much and so I think he was taken aback by that because he spent so much time doing the radio stuff and yet he comes from heavy metal, that’s his soul. So when he was able to write heavy metal again with me, I feel like something awoke in him and we just started writing and never stopped,” said Lauren, who also mentioned the original name for the band was going to be Once We Were Human just because of the way the world is going nowadays, because the fall of humanity and the uprising of social media.

Mixing aggression with vulnerability and downright gut-wrenching growls with ethereal clean vocals, Once Human have already released three studio albums, all of course with Lauren on vocals, those being their 2015 debut The Life I Remember (where she also played piano and additional guitars), their 2017 sophomore opus Evolution, and more recently Scar Weaver, not to mention their 2018 live album Stage of Evolution and their 2022 EP Erasure. Furthermore, Once Human also appeared in the compilations Maximum Metal Vol. 210 (released in 2015 by Metal Hammer) and Le Sampler RockHard 159 (released by RockHard in 2015), both with the song The Life I Remember, and in the compilation Le Sampler RockHard 172 (released by RockHard in 2017) with the song Gravity. If you want to have a very good taste of the power, groove and electricity flowing from the music by Once Human, as well as the mesmerizing visuals of their official videos, you can enjoy on YouTube the songs Eye Of Chaos, Erasure, Cold Arrival, Deadlock, Sledgehammer, Only In Death, Gravity, Dark Matter, a live version for Flock Of Flesh, and tons of non-official videos of their live performances all around the world, as well as stream all of their furious creations on Spotify. On a side note, there’s one song and video, for the title-track Scar Weaver, that means a lot to Lauren. “The Scar Weaver track is about dealing with my anxiety and catastrophic thoughts. I give a bad thought (which is ONLY in my head) a true reality by feeding it energy – thus, giving it life, to grow and completely engulf my mind. I sew the flesh on my fears,” she commented.

Apart from her career with Once Human, Lauren can also be seen doing additional vocals for American Progressive/Melodic Power Metal band Kamelot live since 2018, having also recorded additional vocals for the songs Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire), Mindfall Remedy and The Proud and the Broken, from their 2018 album The Shadow Theory, and participated in their 2020 live album I Am the Empire: Live from the 013 singing the song Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) live with the band. Another band that had the pleasure of having Lauren doing some vocals together with them was International Blackened Death/Groove Metal act Sinsaenum, with whom she recorded the song Sacred Martyr, from their 2018 album Repulsion for Humanity.

Lauren also mentioned in some of her interviews how she ended up singing with Kamelot. “Well I was on tour with Kobra and the Lotus and Kobra Paige told me that Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) had his eye on me for a while because, as you know he’s taken other girls on tour, like Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) as they always have a guest feature. He always has his eye out for someone he can take for the next record. Kobra came up to me after one show in somewhere like Arizona and says ‘Hey, do you want to go and play a show with Kamelot?, you’re going to be opening up for Iron Maiden and Ghost’… I was like ‘uhm yes’!” Moreover, the experience with Kamelot also had a huge impact on her singing style. “Well, in the very beginning of Once Human, I didn’t want to clean-sing. I was scared. I said, ‘Screaming only.’ And Logan made me sing – I guess he heard something in me and knew I could do it — but on the first two albums, you can hear me singing, but it’s quite reluctant. I think it sounds held back and unsure. But on this album, on Scar Weaver, it’s full force. And that is definitely 100% because of Kamelot. You gotta come out of your shell with that band. You’re filling some big shoes – you’re filling Alissa White-Gluz, you’re filling Elize Ryd, you’re filling the shoes of these big amazing singer. So I couldn’t be shy about my vocals anymore. So doing it every night onstage, singing songs like “Liar Liar’ and ‘Sacrimony,’ you will come out of your shell. You’re thrown in the deep end. I became really familiar with my clean-singing voice, and my own style.”

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Still regarding her vocal technique and style, Lauren said that apart from the growth from the years with Kamelot and her daily singing she tries to stay fit, to be really connected with her voice and to know her limits, learning how to breathe and speak to an audience without a microphone, and learning how to project in a healthy way and becoming aware of diaphragm support. In addition, she also mentioned her work with vocal coach Melissa Cross, and with laryngologist Dr. Michael Johns to make sure everything stays healthy. “The style that I do, false chord screaming, is a lot of air, all the time. You have to be in really good shape to pull it off. So for me, I feel like being really fit and staying in the gym and making sure your cardio is up to par – I think that helps me onstage. I also did a lot of voice work – not singing, but voice, which is like breathing work, in a theater school. That’s what I incorporate into my screaming and my singing, to not do any damage and keep my breath down in my diaphragm,” she said, also mentioning a not-so-fun experience she had in her teens. “So when I was a teenager listening to metal, I had an ex-boyfriend who was in a band and I would always go to his rehearsals and after they were done rehearsing, I would always come in and they’d free jam and I’d scream on the microphone and I remember always tasting blood in my throat afterwards. Back then there was no YouTube, no internet really to look up whether or not that was okay so I thought ‘I’m doing it right because I taste blood’! Obviously, though there was something very wrong there.”

Lauren has several idols in her career and in her personal life, of course, including huge names the likes of Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Joe Duplantier (Gojira) and Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), also mentioning Black Metal in general as one of her influences when writing and composing music. When asked about her favourite European bands, she said “well my favorite metal album when I was a kid was Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. I learned to drive to that album and I don’t recommend learning to drive to that album because you’ll get a lot of speeding tickets! But them and Opeth and I love Strapping Young Lad, loved Devin Townsend and Meshuggah. My first ever album that got me into metal was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy and that was sort of the gateway as I wanted to be a guitar player and that was, ‘Wow listen to this guy!’ I listened to that record over and over again and quickly it went from that to Dimmu Borgir, I don’t know how it happened but that’s how it went.”

Having already toured with renowned acts such as Dragonforce, Cradle Of Filth, Kobra And The Lotus, and Fear Factory, our beloved vocalist said that she still dreams of touring with other bands, of course, including Devin Townsend, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, and Meshuggah, and of playing in Wacken Open Air with her band Once Human, complementing by saying she really enjoys to be on the road and that she would love visiting South America. In one of her interviews, Lauren talked about the beauty of screaming in small venues, where she can make eye to eye contact with the crowd and closely feel the reaction from her fans. Also, when questioned if the female-fronted label in metal should continue or cease to exist, she said that “I can see how that separation can cause that, I see the conflict but I also see a lot of my fans, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fans on Patreon – a lot of them are huge fans of female-fronted metal, they’ll go to every show, they’ll buy all the merch and it’s a genre they are just in love with, I don’t know, there are good points and bad,” mentioning she would love to work with other prominent women in metal such as Angela Gossow, Alissa White-Gluz, and Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast.

Lauren was also asked in an interview if she has ever considered returning to acting, but she said that because of the competitiveness of it she doesn’t believe it’s something that she would pursue in her career despite having studied method acting for a number of years. “But you know what, method acting is all about not acting at all, but being honest, 100% honest with yourself. So it is very therapeutic, and I do believe it;’s helped me with my stage presence. Being comfortable in my own skin, being honest. Because people can feel that – they can feel when someone’s being fake. The audience can connect when you’re being true. So it’s definitely helped me be okay with being myself.” And if you want to know more curious facts about Lauren, her career, how she manages to sing and scream with so much passion and energy, there are several interviews on YouTube that I’m sure you’ll enjoy such as one called Screaming when SICK?! What happens…, one interview where she talks about how she learned screaming, another one where she talks about how she found her voice and plays a game called ‘How Well Do You Know Your Bandmate’, and a very relaxed one where she reads mean and not-so-mean YouTube comments about herself and her band. As you can see, Lauren Hart is everywhere, and if you consider yourself a true metalhead it’s time to know more about one of the driving forces of the current metal scene in the United States and bang your head nonstop to her undisputed vocals.

Lauren Hart’s Official Facebook page
Lauren Hart’s Official Instagram
Once Human’s Official Facebook page
Once Human’s Official Instagram

“I force myself to go places that I don’t normally want to go. I force myself to look at things that I’d typically want to not see.” – Lauren Hart

Album Review – Once Human / Scar Weaver (2022)

One of the most distinctive and destructive metal bands of the modern era strikes again with a breathtaking new opus, showcasing their own mutation into an even more devastating beast.

Formed in 2014 in Los Angeles, California, in the United States by guitarist Logan Mader (Machine Head) and vocalist Lauren Hart, the ruthless Groove Metal act known as Once Human has steadily established themselves as one of the most distinctive and destructive metal bands of the modern era. Now in 2022, Logan and Lauren, together with guitarist Max Karon, bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Dillon Trollope, are ready to kill once again with Scar Weaver, their third full-length album following up on the highly acclaimed releases The Life I Remember (2015) and Evolution (2017), showcasing the band’s own mutation into an even more devastating beast. “It was not an easy path to reach this point, I’ll tell you that,” says Logan Mader. “The original masterplan for the band was really passion-project driven. The first two albums, we were still finding our way. Where we’re at now is with a really strong posture and by far the best album we’ve done. Over the years we’ve done a lot of groundwork and some smaller tours, just grinding things out, sometimes even in a DIY fashion. But now we have legit team around us, the band is firing on all cylinders and everything seems to be lining up this time.”

Dillon begins smashing his drums mercilessly in Eidolon, with Logan and Max extracting sheer violence from their guitars, all of course spiced up by the venomous roars by our she-demon Lauren. Needless to say, it will be an awesome opener for their live concerts. Then we have the menacing Deadlock, featuring Robb Flynn of Machine Head, who makes a pulverizing duo with Lauren on vocals in a modern-day Melodic Death Metal feast with Metalcore nuances, or in other words, a true headbanger by Once Human; followed by the title-track Scar Weaver, which sounds more devilish and darker than its predecessors with Damien hammering his bass nonstop, adding endless groove to the band’s core sonority (not to mention how sharp the riffage by the band’s guitar duo feels). After that the band brings forward Bottom Feeder, sounding infernal and utterly heavy from the very first second while presenting another great job done by Logan and Max with their riffs and solos. Moreover, the metallic bass jabs by Damien will knock you out in the name of Groove Metal, and you better get ready to slam into the circle pit like a true metalmaniac in Where The Bones Lie, with Lauren stealing the show with her flammable growls and vociferations while Damien and Dillon make the earth tremble with their evil kitchen.

More introspective and somber than the rest of the album, Erasure showcases the band’s trademark sound with its first half feeling a little bland while the second half gets back to their usual sonic devastation. And the massive bass lines by Damien attack our senses once again in Deserted, accompanied by the sick, razor-edged riffs by Logan and Max. The high-octane We Ride is a brutal, hellish and absolutely aggressive display of Groove Metal by the band where Lauren is on fire from start to finish, supported by the demented drums by Dillon, whereas in Cold Arrival we’re treated to poetic lyrics growled by Lauren (“I ran so blind / Into the blades of your life / Gray and disguised / And peeled my eyes / As they unfurled”) amidst another thunderous display of Groove and Melodic Death Metal. Lastly, Lauren keeps vociferating wicked words (“No shoulder that won’t cut like a blade / When they’re cold / Turned their backs / I beg them to take your words / Off my chest, take them / Take your worth from my headache / In death”) in Only In Death, putting a beyond sinister ending to the album.

When Logan mentioned Scar Weaver is their strongest album to date he was not joking nor exaggerating at all. Scar Weaver is indeed a powerful and very detailed album of modernized metal music where all band members are in absolute sync until the very last second, providing us fans a very good reason to raise our fists and bang our heads in the name of Heavy Metal. Hence, don’t forget to give Once Human a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to stream all of their awesome creations on Spotify, and to obviously purchase your copy of Scar Weaver by clicking HERE or HERE. Blessed (or perhaps cursed) with plenty of additional time during the last year’s lockdown situation, Once Human have been able to refine and redefine their sound in Scar Weaver, turning the band into one of the driving forces of modern-day heavy music and, consequently, inviting us all to rock like there’s no tomorrow with Logan, Lauren & Co. for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Deadlock, Where The Bones Lie and We Ride.

Worst moments of the album: Erasure.

Released in 2022 earMUSIC

Track listing
1. Eidolon 4:06
2. Deadlock 3:39
3. Scar Weaver 4:36
4. Bottom Feeder 5:21
5. Where The Bones Lie 3:50
6. Erasure 5:01
7. Deserted 4:13
8. We Ride 2:50
9. Cold Arrival 4:20
10. Only In Death 5:14

Band members
Lauren Hart – vocals
Logan Mader – guitars
Max Karon – guitars
Damien Rainaud – bass
Dillon Trollope – drums

Guest musician
Robb Flynn – additional vocals on “Deadlock”

Album Review – Exodus / Persona Non Grata (2021)

Don’t be a “persona non grata” in the world of heavy music and get into the circle pit to the sound of the newborn beast by one of the driving forces of Thrash Metal worldwide.

Persona Non Grata, an unacceptable or unwelcome person, is also the name of the brand new Thrash Metal beast by Bay Area titans Exodus, their first studio album since Blood In, Blood Out in 2014 and their second to feature vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza since he returned to the band that same year. Recorded at drummer Tom Hunting’s three home studios in Lake Almanor, California, mixed by Andy Sneap at Backstage Studios, engineered by Steve Lagudi, displaying an ass-kicking, venomous artwork by Pär Olofsson, and featuring guests Rick Hunolt, who had been an Exodus member on and off since replacing original guitarist Kirk Hammett in 1983, and Zetro’s own sons Nick Souza and Cody Souza on backing vocals, both from Zetro’s band Hatriot, Persona Non Grata is another lesson in violence by the aforementioned Zetro and Tom together with guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus and bassist Jack Gibson, and despite the delay in the release of the album due to Gary’s commitments with Slayer until 2019 and Tom’s diagnosis with squamous cell carcinoma of the stomach (and I’m sure Tom will beat the shit out of it), the wait was totally worth it as their new album is undoubtedly one of the best releases in the world of metal in 2021.

Gary and Lee waste no time and begin their axe attack in great fashion in the pulverizing title-track Persona Non Grata, a lecture in savagery by Exodus uniting their early days sound with their heavier and more demonic present, also showcasing a beyond bestial Tom on drums;  and they keep hammering our heads mercilessly in the circle pit-generator R.E.M.F., presenting another awesome guitar job by Gary and Lee supported by the metallic bass by Jack, while Zetro vociferates rabidly just the way we like it. Then an incendiary intro evolves into another Thrash Metal extravaganza titled Slipping into Madness, which will inspire you to slam into the pit in the name of heavy music. It’s very old school without sounding outdated, with Zetro once again being on fire with his raspy roars, whereas in Elitist the band sounds less intense but still violent and acid as usual, with Jack and Tom extracting earthshaking sounds from their respective bass and drums while the band’s guitar duo delivers their trademark sharp solos. Sinister sounds permeate the air in Prescribing Horror, a neck-breaking, vile creation by Exodus where Tom smashes his drums flawlessly, followed by The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves), a pure, unfiltered Bay Area Thrash hymn which will sound amazing when played live, with Zetro, Gary and Lee being in total sync from start to finish.

Exodus Persona Non Grata Box Set

The Years of Death and Dying is a lot more melodic than its predecessors, offering their trademark unfriendly lyrics (“I’m a force of nature pure and sure / I’ve killed through all of time / When a GALE force wind blows through you / You’ll know that you are mine / I am legend, I’m your end / You’ll wither when I’m near / I’m the years of death and dying / the sum of all your fears”), while in Clickbait the unstoppable Zetro gnarls the song’s austere words manically (“We take the clickbait / Follow as they lead / With every word they captivate / We blindly follow they trail like human sheep / Never awake always asleep”) accompanied by the brutality blasted by Tom on drums. After the short and sweet Southern Rock-inspired instrumental interlude Cosa del Pantano, the band comes crushing us all in Lunatic-Liar-Lord, featuring a sick guitar solo by Rick Hunolt while the band brings to our ears eight minutes of aggression, speed and adrenaline, all spearheaded by the undisputed riffage by the one and only Gary Holt. There’s no sign of slowing down and the quintet keeps delivering sheer electricity and rage in The Fires of Division, another Thrash Metal anthem perfect for hitting the “dance” floor while Zetro continues to fire his unique growls; and closing such dense and demolishing album of vicious thrash we have Antiseed, starting in a dark manner before exploding into a massive, evil creature led by the aggressive vocals by Zetro and the heavy-as-hell riffage by Gary and Lee.

After listening to over one hour of the ass-kicking, first-class, undisputed Thrash Metal blasted by Exodus in Persona Non Grata, we can rest assured thrash is very much alive, and will forever be, positioning not only the album as one of the best metal releases of the year, but also Exodus as one of the true driving forces of today’s Thrash Metal alongside Testament. Hence, don’t forget to follow Zetro, Gary & Co. on Facebook and on Instagram, and to buy or stream Persona Non Grata by clicking HERE, and if I were you I would definitely go for the beyond special boxset edition of the album (which you can purchase HERE or HERE), limited to 2,000 worldwide and including the album on CD and orange/red swirl with black splatter vinyl, a “Jam Camp!” Blu-ray, a 20-page booklet, a slip mat, a wall flag and a patch, all embraced by a custom packaging with 3D-vacuformed album art and clamshell box with die-cut window and gold foil stamping. And if after all that you still decide not to grab your copy of such insane album, I’m sorry but from now on you’re “persona non grata” at The Headbanging Moose.

Best moments of the album: Persona Non Grata, R.E.M.F., The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and Lunatic-Liar-Lord.

Worst moments of the album: The Years of Death and Dying.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Persona Non Grata 7:30
2. R.E.M.F. 4:22
3. Slipping into Madness 5:33
4. Elitist 3:58
5. Prescribing Horror 5:09
6. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) 3:01
7. The Years of Death and Dying 5:22
8. Clickbait 4:31
9. Cosa del Pantano 1:13
10. Lunatic-Liar-Lord 7:59
11. The Fires of Division 5:23
12. Antiseed 6:17

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Rick Hunolt – lead guitars on “Lunatic-Liar-Lord”, backing vocals
Cody Souza – backing vocals
Nick Souza – backing vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

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It’s my time to soar… I am here to stay!

Born and raised in Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, but currently residing in “Sin City” Las Vegas, Nevada, the multi-talented Mary Zimmer, our metal chick of the month of April, is ready to set the world of heavy music on fire with her unique vocal range, stunning looks and ass-kicking onstage performance, proving why she was chosen in 2019 to become the frontwoman for Sacramento, California-based Power Metal unity Helion Prime. Not only an accomplished vocalist who can do both clean vocals and harsh screams, known for her work with bands the likes of Luna Mortis and White Empress (not to mention her years as a touring member of Helion Prime from 2018 to 2019), Mary has also been a vocal coach and instructor for more than a decade, a session musician for some amazing underground bands, and a YouTuber who discusses about singing, screaming and music theory, as well as reviews and reaction videos. Put differently, Mary Zimmer is just awesome, and I bet you’ll have a very good time knowing a little more about such skillful musician here on The Headbanging Moose.

A classically trained singer who has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Mary has also studied additional techniques to shout and sing with The Zen of Screaming creator, Melissa Cross, allowing her to showcase all her vocal skills in bands from different styles as aforementioned, as well as her studies in audio engineering. “I got my degree in classical music fairly young at the age of 22. Even after my music degree, I did an absolute ton of research on the anatomy of the voice and tried to absorb all of the information that’s available out there,” commented Mary on her passion for technical singing. Long before joining Helion Prime, Mary was the vocalist for a band named A Touch of Evil between 2001 and 2002; for an American Folk/Gothic Metal/Ambient group named Earthen; for American Progressive Metal act Luna Mortis (and its previous incarnation The Ottoman Empire); for a band called Santa Marta from 2016 to 2019; and for American Extreme Symphonic Metal outfit White Empress from 2013 until 2016.

Perhaps the two most interesting projects she was involved in her pre-Helion Prime days are Luna Mortis and White Empress, with whom she recorded some excellent material and official videos. Let’s begin talking about Luna Mortis, formed in 2002 in her hometown under the name The Ottoman Empire, and as the vocalist for The Ottoman Empire she recorded the album Way of the Blade, in 2006, and the EP The Answer: Does Not Exist, in 2008. Then after the change in the band’s name to Luna Mortis still in 2008, Mary recorded with the band the 2009 album The Absence, presenting a much stronger sound and polished production compared to the band’s two previous releases. You can enjoy online the official videos for the songs Forevermore and Anemic World, and if you think Luna Mortis will be back in action one day, well, after their reunion back in 2013, which was not as great as the band itself expected as they had several internal issues (shortening the reunion considerably), and as mentioned by Mary herself, it was a failed experiment and she can pretty much guarantee they won’t try to reunite again. After Luna Mortis, Mary said she’s a completely different person on many levels, having changed mentally, emotionally, physically, visually and vocally, as you’ll be able to notice in White Empress.

It was in 2013 under the moniker “White Empress” (and later as Mary Z) that our unstoppable diva helped to found the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Extreme Symphonic Metal unity White Empress, having recorded a self-titled EP in 2014 and the full-length opus Rise of the Empress that same year (containing the four songs from the EP plus other original tracks). When asked about the concept of White Empress, Mary said that the band was band based around the character of the White Empress herself, an empowering and a feminine power in her own right, representing the individual inner strength and power we all have within, with the original concept being created by the band’s founder Paul Allender (better known for his superb work with Cradle of Filth for over two decades). If you want to have a quick and incendiary taste of their music, you can enjoy the official video for the awesome song Darkness Encroaching.

Mary can also be seen lending her powerful voice to different bands and projects as a guest vocalist, on top of her years as a live member of Helion Prime as mentioned before. For instance, she recorded the harsh vocals for the song Goodbye to Farewells, from the 2021 album Psychosomatic by Austin, Texas-based Progressive/Power Metal band Immortal Guardian; and vocals as “President Fox” on the 2019 self-titled album by Brooklyn, New York-based Symphonic/Progressive Metal project Valcata. Not only that, Mary was also involved in the recordings of the 2018 eight-track demo The Remains of Judgment, by Madison, Wisconsin-based Death Metal act Burial of an Era, showing another side of our multi-talented musician (and we’ll talk more about her technical skills shortly). When asked about how she became a session musician, Mary said that the fact she already had the skills necessary to record her own vocals, plus her business professionalism, made it easier for people to trust and hire her, complementing by saying that it’s important to choose if you want to be an in-person guest musician or if you want to learn how to record yourself at home and work worldwide, which of course demands some investments that can be a bit expensive for beginners.

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Regarding her career with Helion Prime, after joining the band as their full-time frontwoman Mary recorded the album Question Everything in 2020 with the band, currently comprised of our electrifying diva on vocals together with guitarists Jason Ashcraft and Chad Anderson, bassist Jeremy Steinhouse and drummer Alex Bosson. When asked what attracted her to Helion Prime in first place, she said she learned to love the guys from the band during her two years as their touring singer, enjoying singing their material, and finally deciding to join forces with them after it became logistically difficult for their previous singer Sozos Michael to be involved as needed. As Question Everything contains several songs that work as tributes to influential names in the history of science, Mary was asked which one of those people was her favorite one to sing about. “I think my favorite is Katherine Johnson. She’s the subject of the song Madame Mercury. Her story really speaks to the successes people can have against daunting odds, and she’s certainly an inspiration to folks all over the world,” said Mary, providing some inspirational words to us fans.

As already mentioned, Mary is a famous YouTuber who runs her own channel called VoiceHacks, providing singing and screaming tutorials for beginner to advanced vocalists, teaching private lessons, and training people in a variety of techniques. “I kind of became a YouTuber by accident. I’m a vocal coach and vocalist first and foremost who kind of ‘fell’ into YouTube as a result of using it as a hosting place for my tutorials and other resources for the people I teach,” commented Mary in one of her interviews, also saying that “I’ve been doing all lessons online since 2013 because physical in-person lessons are out of date and relatively impractical. Most people prefer not having to leave home for their lessons.” If you explore her YouTube channel, you’ll find several videos with important tips on how to preserve your voice while doing harsh vocals, how to reach the right key, how to fix “easy-to-correct” mistakes a lot of singers and producers make in the studio, and so on. For example, did you know that getting vocalists to aim upwards into the microphone while recording is not a good idea? “It’s way easier for a singer to sing a high note while looking DOWN! This being the case, I want all engineers to stop putting the microphone above the singer, and instead to place it straight in-front, or slightly below their mouth at a 45-degree angle,” said our talented vocal coach.

As usual, such important woman to the world of heavy music was asked several times about her view of women in metal, and her answer to that question focuses on the respect she gets as a musician instead of hearing things like “you’re a chick in a band, you’re a novelty”, also saying you don’t have to be a super model to be a great vocalist, although she truly enjoys all types of singers in the end. “I think there are a lot of particularly glamorous metal singers, I think… Simone Simons (Epica), Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish), there is a lot of glamorous metal singers but then you also have your ones that just came in their t-shirt and jeans like Anneke (van Giersbergen) from The Gathering you know?” She also mentioned in one of her interviews when asked about the fact the recording industry is a heavily male-dominated business that it still astonishes her that all these years later she’s still one of the only women who knows anything about recording, albeit she doesn’t see it as a masculine or physically challenging task.

There were also three other interesting topics where Mary was asked to provide her insights on, those being the evolution in the music industry, what a manager can offer a band that’s proactive aside from contacts, and all environmental issues the world is facing. Mary said that what has changed most is the evolution from physical product to monetized music listening streaming and that has been a very positive change for all musicians everywhere, and she personally vastly prefers living in the digital era of music now. “It’s an utterly fantastic time to be a musician. There are so many resources at our fingertips. The only limit is our attitude, willingness to educate ourselves about the new music industry landscape and tools, and writing good music. That hasn’t changed, even with all the abundant opportunities for musicians, the songs still have to be good.” Regarding the need for a band manager or not, Mary said that there are good managers out there that have a good business sense, that are rooted in the genre that the band is playing and they have contacts and connections they can work on the band’s behalf to deal with publicists, tour planners, other things and just sort of be the mouth for the musician, and of course, that can be the a neutral face when dealing with people, avoiding exposing the band to negative feedback and opinions (in a good way, of course). And lastly, in regards to the way mankind is treating the environment, she said that she has three degrees in varying areas of Renewable Energy and from that education she has learned that sustainability is necessary for human survival. “The earth is a finite sphere with a finite amount of resources – a finite amount of matter and energy.  If we seek to live on a habitable planet, we must find totally 100% sustainable ways to live.  Unsustainable practices shouldn’t even exist.  I am a huge renewable energy advocate, as it is the most logical, safe, sustainable, abundant means of powering humanity,” suggesting we all watch the video or read the book Cradle to Cradle and learn about sustainability and how it changes the world and the environment.

If you want to have fun together with Mary, you can find several excellent interviews online with her as for example this one for Musican’s HQ podcast, episode 23; the one she did together with Helion Prime’s own guitarist Jason Ashcraft for Rustyn Rose from Metalnation where they discussed their new album Question Everything, Ronnie James Dio, special guests and the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry, among other topics; and this one for Audible.com where she discusses about her YouTube channel VoiceHacks. Having said all that, what are you waiting for to let Mary Zimmer and her powerful voice penetrate deep inside your soul in the name of Heavy Metal? I’m sure Mary will love to hear from you and to get your feedback on her undisputed work as the great vocalist she is.

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“I don’t think that metal is an intentionally sexist genre, I think metalheads are pretty broad thinking people and I think that most of them will give you a shot. If you can play you can play if you can sing you can sing. And it doesn’t really matter to a lot of them if you’re a woman or a man.” – Mary Zimmer

Album Review – Mare Cognitum / Solar Paroxysm (2021)

A Portland, Oregon-based one-man Cosmic Black Metal entity returns with his fifth full-length opus, finding a new voice for his frustrations with humankind through five aggressive, metallic songs.

From the depths of the outer rim to solid footing of green earth, Solar Paroxysm, the fifth full-lenth opus by Portland, Oregon-based one-man Cosmic Black Metal entity Mare Cognitum, finds itself moving from the impossible to the familiar, with the project’s lone wolf Jacob Buczarski occupying himself with the failures of humankind over the past epoch, finding a new voice for his frustrations through five aggressive, metallic songs. Featuring a beyond stunning artwork by Adam Burke at Nightjar Illustration, Solar Paroxysm lifts the veil and reveals the true musicianship which has fueled Mare Cognitum since its impetus a decade ago, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the Stygian creations by Spectral Lore, Dawn, Blut Aus Nord and Chaos Moon, among others.

In the beautiful opening track Αntaresian, a beyond atmospheric and enfolding start grows in intensity and darkness until exploding into visceral Black Metal where Jacob showcases all his dexterity with his fulminating beats and blazing riffs, as well as showing his deep passion for old school and modern-day extreme music, roaring with tons of anguish and despair in his blackened heart. And Jacob keeps firing unstoppable blast beats and fills, razor-edged guitar lines and rumbling bass punches, generating a massive wall of sounds that will penetrate deep inside your psyche in the 11-minute aria titled Frozen Star Divinization, a lecture in Atmospheric Black Metal infused with classic Black Metal nuances; whereas investing in a more obscure and menacing sonority by presenting elements from Blackened Doom and classic Doom Metal we have Terra Requiem, where Jacob’s riffage is absolutely mesmerizing, dragging us all into his Stygian lair forever and ever while the music flows majestically until the song’s epic finale.

The following aria, entitled Luminous Accretion, already starts in full force with Jacob hypnotizing our senses once again through his whimsical riffs and classic Black Metal drumming. Moreover, there’s not a single space left in the air, resulting in top-of-the-line Atmospheric Black Metal for lovers of the genre, or in other words, one of the most complete, detailed and therefore best extreme music songs of the past few years. And last but not least, we’re treated to Ataraxia Tunnels, sounding primeval and intense from the very first second thanks to Jacob’s thunderous drums and piercing riffs, not to mention the hints of Epic Metal added to its core musicality, and of course it’s not an Atmospheric Black Metal song if it doesn’t carry pensive, austere lyrics for our total delectation (“Visions conjure throughout / A delusion searing into memory / So vividly / Once compulsively wrought / Now imbued to confine a once-great mind / Forever”).

The sinister and obscure realms of Cosmic Black Metal ruled by Jacob and his Mare Cognitum can be further explored by following the project on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming more of his wicked creations on Spotify and, above all that, by purchasing Solar Paroxysm from the project’s own BandCamp page, from the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp page, from Metal Odissey in CD and double LP formats, or from Apple Music. Now suddenly so outwardly truculent and antagonistic, Mare Cognitum finally reveals the project’s true essence with Solar Paroxysm, inviting us all to join Jacob on a one way journey into madness and sorrow, with his Cosmic and Atmospheric Black Metal being everything we need to get lost in darkness for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Frozen Star Divinization and Luminous Accretion.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 I, Voidhanger Records/Extraconscious Records

Track listing
1. Αntaresian 11:16
2. Frozen Star Divinization 10:59
3. Terra Requiem 10:35
4. Luminous Accretion 10:51
5. Ataraxia Tunnels 12:31

Band members
Jacob Buczarski – vocals, all instruments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Scourge Records

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

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

Album Review – High Priestess / Casting The Circle (2020)

Seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with tribal percussion and prog rock arrangements, this American trinity is ready to cast a spell on us with their excellent new album.

Convoking crushing riffs drenched with lush harmonies and hypnotic eastern themes, Los Angeles-based Doom Metal trinity High Priestess was formed in 2016 by bassist and vocalist Mariana Fiel when she recruited Katie Gilchrest on guitar and vocals and Megan Mullins on drums, crafting a sound that echoes both past and future incarnations of doom and psychedelia since then. After the release of their highly-acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2018, it’s time for High Priestess to captivate our senses once again with their sophomore opus Casting The Circle, featuring a dark and sexy artwork by Jill Colbert at Manfish Inc. and seasoning their psych-doom cauldron with keyboards, tribal percussion, signature harmonies and grandiose prog rock arrangements. “After playing these songs live for many months, we are pleased to have captured them in their definitive recorded versions for the whole world. We honor gods and goddesses, ancestors and spirits from the past, present and future and sing songs of misfortune,” commented Katie Gilchrest herself about the band’s amazing new album.

A tribal, dark mass is about to start in the deep and embracing Casting the Circle, led by Megan’s ritualistic beats while Katie and Mariana begin blasting their enthralling vocal lines in a true psychedelic and doomed manner. Put differently, it’s absolutely impossible not to get hypnotized by their music, which is also the case in the fabulous Erebus, where the trio leans towards the most obscure side of iconic acts like Black Sabbath and Candlemass, but with a delicious feminine touch added to the overall result. It’s almost ten minutes of enfolding passages, crisp riffs and the sluggish beats by Megan, all spiced up by Katie’s astounding, piercing guitar solos, whereas The Hourglass is a Psychedelic and Progressive Rock extravaganza blending the trademark sound from the 70’s with the band’s more contemporary doom, with Katie’s stunning riffs being complemented by the low-tuned bass by Mariana and the classic drums by Megan, not to mention the song’s fiery vocal lines.

Then it’s time to surrender to the most Stygian side of life in Invocation, offering our avid ears over 17 minutes of ethereal and somber passages led by Katie’s primeval, mesmerizing riffs while Mariana and Megan dictate the rhythm with their thunderous but delicate instruments, summoning the prince of darkness with their scorching Doom Metal. Flowing like an arrow on fire through the night and getting heavier and more imposing halfway through it, the song remains tribal and dense until its demolishing grand finale, with Katie heightening our senses with her cryptic organ keys. And lastly we have Ave Satanas, an ethereal and obscure outro by the trio where their somber vocalizations will drag you into their sinister lair in the name of Satan (which in the case of High Priestess is a beyond awesome opportunity for any metalhead, of course).

The circle of what the band itself likes to call “Heavy-Psych Doom” has been cast by Katie, Mariana and Megan in their newborn opus, and in order to join those three undeniably talented women in their quest for such unique style of heavy music simply follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, and grab your copy of Casting The Circle from Ripple Music’s BandCamp page or webstore (US and Europe), as well as from Amazon. The high priestesses of heavy and lustful Doom Metal are among us to stay, and as they conjure each and every one of us to become part of their devilish kingdom, there’s only one question left, and it’s indeed a very simple one. Who are we to say no to such distinguished and dexterous triumvirate of doom?

Best moments of the album: Erebus and The Hourglass.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Ripple Music

Track listing
1. Casting the Circle 5:10
2. Erebus 9:37
3. The Hourglass 6:46
4. Invocation 17:22
5. Ave Satanas 3:26

Band members
Katie Gilchrest – vocals, guitars, organ
Mariana Fiel – bass, vocals
Megan Mullins – drums, percussion

Metal Chick of the Month – Nadja Peulen

Say it, Nadja! We’re out for blood!

As part of our annual tradition here at The Headbanging Moose, the first metal chick of the year must be a badass bass player to properly kick things off with a lot of thunder and heaviness just the way we like it in Heavy Metal, and in 2020 that couldn’t be any different than that, of course. Having said that, get ready to venture through the realms of Alternative and Nu Metal with the one and only Nadja Peulen, a German-born bassist and backing vocalist currently based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States known for bringing tons of groove to our avid ears as the bassist for American metallers Coal Chamber from 1999 to 2000, again between 2002 and 2003, and one last time after a huge band hiatus from 2013 until 2016 when the group disbanded once and for all.

Born on January 10, 1975 somewhere in the always beautiful Germany, our 1.73m-tall blue-eyed, red-haired bassist started her life in music at a very early age due to her family travelling a lot and staying at several different places, always on the road in the name of Rock N’ Roll, always surrounded by distinct people, and always attending music concerts. Of Polish and German descent, Nadja grew up in the Netherlands and listened to a lot of 70’s music such as Motown, disco and classic rock at home because of her parents, being highly influenced by those styles in her current way of playing bass. Originally starting out studying art with aspirations to be a painter, Nadja naturally decided to switch to music, playing drums before becoming a bassist and continuing her career as a drummer after moving to Los Angeles when she was only 18, learning from renowned drummers and jamming with several different musicians (while at the same time working in different jobs such as tiling bathrooms and working as a waitress in a strip bar).

After a while, when Nadja decided she wanted to get more into songwriting, she was given a bass guitar (a cheap $100 one, by the way) and started playing with one finger only, gradually evolving to a couple more fingers and never having a single lesson in her life. Three months later, she was already in an all-girl band named Tail, playing around Hollywood for a couple of years at Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room and whatever clubs were there at the time. After a couple of years, Nadja was invited to join Los Angeles-based Nu Metal outfit Coal Chamber in 1999 while bassist Rayna Foss-Rose was on maternity leave, and again after the recording of the 2002 album Dark Days when Rayna left the band for good, playing live with the band in several domestic and international tours with bands like Drowning Pool co-headlining the tours. Despite not having recorded the bass lines in Dark Days, Nadja is featured in the official video for Fiend, one of the band’s most well known songs which is thought to be about how the band and the Nu Metal genre were getting heavily criticized at the time. In addition, Nadja was also featured as the band’s bass player in the excellent concert Live at the Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA, 1999 in the bonus DVD from the 2005 special re-release of their 1997 debut album Coal Chamber.

Then after a long period of silence from 2003 until 2011, Coal Chamber reunited for a short run of international shows with bassist Chela Rhea Harper instead of Nadja, but our talented red-haired bassist officially returned to the band in October 2013 shortly before the band signed to Napalm Records to record a new album. “Beyond happy and excited today to announce my return on bass with Coal Chamber,” Nadja wrote on the day of her official return to the band. “I’ve missed my brothers and can’t wait to rock the stage with them again and see all of you!” It was in May 2015 that Coal Chamber released their fourth album in thirteen years and their only studio album with Nadja on bass, entitled Rivals, adding a touch of Groove Metal to their musicality while at the same time distancing themselves from their previous Gothic Metal style. From Rivals, you can enjoy Nadja’s rumbling bass punching you in the face in songs like Another Nail In The Coffin, Suffer In Silence (featuring Ministry’s driving force Al Jourgensen on guest vocals), and I.O.U. Nothing.

Apart from her awesome stints with Coal Chamber, Nadja was also the bass player and backing vocalist for a Los Angeles-based Theatrical/Alternative Avantgarde Rock duo known as Vera Mesmer, together with vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Christopher Mesmer, formerly of Reveille, as well as guest drummer Bones Elias (Julien K, formerly of Dead by Sunrise), from 2010 until 2013. Vera Mesmer left two very interesting releases to the world before the duo parted ways in 2013, those being the 2012 EP Orphans and the 2013 single Down the Hole, showing a different and very theatrical storytelling side of both Chris and Nadja, as you can see for example in the official video for the song Back from the Dead. “We’re constantly brainstorming and creating. We’ve completely let go of templates and we don’t stick to the genre game,” said Nadja about the artistic freedom she found with Vera Mesmer while the band was still active. “We encompass all music styles while still undeniably retaining that Vera Mesmer sound.”

You can also find Nadja lending her thunderous bass lines to a project entitled Roadrunner United from 2005 to 2008, having recorded the excellent single and video The End together with Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) and Matt Heafy (Trivium), among others, for the 2005 album The All-Star Sessions, as well as the 2008 DVD featuring a making of and a live concert with several artists such as Ville Valo (HIM), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Tim “Ripper” Owens, with Nadja kicking some serious ass in songs like Type O Negative’s all-time classic Black No. 1 together with Ville Valo on vocals, Andreas Kisser on lead guitar, Dino Cazares on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards, and Tired ‘n Lonely together with Mina Caputo on vocals, Matt Baumbach on lead guitar, Acey Slade on rhythm guitar, Joey Jordison on drums and Rob Caggiano on keyboards. Furthermore, between 2004 and 2006, Nadja was also featured in the music videos for the songs (Rock) Superstar and What’s Your Number? as part of the backup band with Tim Armstrong (Rancid) and Christian Olde Wobbers (Fear Factory), both by American Hip-Hop group Cypress Hill.

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As already mentioned, Nadja has a wide and eclectic taste for music, with her primary influences lying along the Trip Hop, Industrial and Alternative Rock and Metal vein the likes of Massive Attack, Killing Joke, The Cult, Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad and Stevie Wonder, with the one and only Iggy Pop being part of one of the most exciting moments in her career. A friend of hers called Whitney, who used to play guitar for Iggy Pop, invited Nadja for a jamming session one day, but she initially said no. “Why don’t you come down to the Swinghouse and jam with me and a couple of friends?”, said Whitney, and she promptly answered “Well I’m in bed. My bass is dusty and I’m watching TV. I really don’t feel like jamming with you right now.” Whitey called back a couple of times and finally said, “Well, it’s Iggy and he wants to jam with you.” Nadja didn’t believe her friend, saying “Yeah you’re fucking with me. You just want me to come down there and hang out.” Then she got another phone call from Iggy’s manager, which turned out to be his son Eric. He said, “Yeah, Iggy Pop is down here and he really, really wants to jam with you.” She still thought it was a prank, when she finally got a phone call from Iggy himself where she recognized his voice and nearly pissed her pants. Iggy said, “Nadja, I have heard a lot of really good things about you. I want to jam with you. Come down here – can you be here in 10 minutes?” Needless to say, Nadja joined her idol and they jammed for a few hours, with Nadja later saying in one of her interviews that she was always afraid to meet someone like Iggy Pop because she believed a person like that would probably be an asshole and she would never be able to listen to his music the same way. However, he was really nice to her, a humble guy exactly how anyone would expect.

Regarding her life on the road with Coal Chamber, Nadja mentioned in one of her interviews that she really loved playing the songs Another Nail In The Coffin and Bad Blood Between Us live with the band, both from the album Rivals, and that she would have loved to be in a tour co-headlined by Coal Chamber, System Of A Down and Korn, the latter with whom Coal Chamber only played at the same festivals such as Heavy Montreal in 2015 and Graspop Metal Meeting in 2013. When questioned about the fact she was the only female on the tours with Coal Chamber, she said that it was indeed challenging as she had for example to get dressed in the bathroom of the bus, which was a very small space. However, Nadja also said she was fine being the only girl in a “boy’s club”, complementing by saying that being utterly professional was what kept everything working well. Also, on a side note, Nadja mentioned being on stage, being in that moment, is when her mind stops and she can achieve some peace of mind, having also achieved that peace by doing yoga, more specifically Kundalini Yoga, a school of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.

Nadja also launched in 2003 her own T-shirt and apparel company called CruelTees, selling her products not only online but also through stores such as Hot Topic. Owner and head designer of CruelTees, Nadja has always loved painting and sketching, having even been in Art Academy before quitting it to move to Los Angeles, with her designs fusing dark Gothic and wild Rock N’ Roll images with clever slogans. However, if you click on the official website for CruelTees, it will redirect you to her website Sonic Dominion without any products available. There are a few items in her webshop, though, but nothing related to CruelTees. Perhaps Nadja is working on a new collection for the future? If you’re curious to know more about CruelTees and ask Nadja for any updates on the brand, you can message her directly through her official website contact form, and who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the first to receive news on a new series of CruelTees shirts and apparel.

Endorsed by Schecter Guitars, Mesa Boogie, Dean Markley Strings, Monster Energy Drink and Monster Cable, our skillful bassist, who by the way thinks labeling a music style is not really that relevant, commented in one of her interviews that she’s happy to see an increasing number of female bass players (as well as guitarists and drummers) out in the market playing with their bands, which is always a good thing in heavy music, also saying she likes the fact that several of those bassists are adopting the finger style when playing their instruments, something that was a taboo in the past. Nadja herself is a finger bass player, as mentioned before, and the fact this old school technique is becoming popular again brings a lot of joy to her heart. And last but not least, Nadja’s relationship with her fans is quite healthy, with some of her fans even becoming her personal friends. She said that she can’t obviously answer everything to everyone due to her busy schedule, as she doesn’t consider herself an Internet person with enough time for social media. She actually doesn’t enjoy engaging on social media on a personal level, focusing on her work as a musician and as a designer instead. We have to agree with Nadja on that, and if you want to know more about her professional career you can either follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or watch some of her interviews and other videos on YouTube like the BIAS FX demo, an interview during Heavy Montreal in 2015, an interview to INDIEPOWER TV! in 2015, or an interview she gave to Dean Markley at NAMM also in 2015. What are you waiting for to let one of the most badass female bassists of all time show you all she got? Nadja kicks some serious ass, and she will crush you like an insect with her thunderous bass, no doubt about that.

Nadja Peulen’s Official Facebook page
Nadja Peulen’s Official Instagram
Nadja Peulen’s Official Twitter
Nadja Peulen’s Official YouTube channel
Coal Chamber’s Official Facebook page
Coal Chamber’s Official Instagram
Coal Chamber’s Official Twitter

“To me being on stage and playing music is one of the best things because I have a very busy mind – I’m always thinking.” – Nadja Peulen

Album Review – Death Angel / Humanicide (2019)

A solid and entertaining album of old school Thrash Metal that marks the band’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality.

Since their return from a long hiatus in 2001, American Thrash Metal wolfpack Death Angel has been on a constant and solid roll, releasing a series of albums that, although might not be considered masterpieces, are extremely high-quality albums of good old, classic thrash. If their 2016 installment The Evil Divide is in my humble opinion their strongest album of this new phase of the band and one of their all-time best ones in terms of creativity, speed and rage, we can say their brand new opus Humanicide, the ninth studio album in their career, continues to pave their thrashing path and keeps the band more than just relevant in the current metal scene, therefore keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning brighter than a thousand suns.

Recorded and mixed at Audio Hammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, with additional recording at Spiderville Studios in Oakland, California and mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville, Tennessee, Humanicide is the band’s fourth album in a row to be produced by Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned, Crotchduster, Capharnaum) and also to have the same lineup comprised of vocalist Mark Osegueda, guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll. In addition to that, Humanicide also marks Death Angel’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality, which is also reflected in the album artwork designed by renowned American artist Brent Elliott White (Megadeth, Trivium, 4ARM, Thy Art Is Murder, Amon Amarth), who already worked with Death Angel in their 2010 album Relentless Retribution and in their 2013 album The Dream Calls for Blood. Having said that, are you ready to join this unrelenting wolfpack in their quest for Thrash Metal?

An epic intro ignites the bold title-track Humanicide, with the strident guitars by both Rob and Ted morphing into a shredding feast while Mark’s vocals sound piercing and acid just the way we like it, thrashing our souls mercilessly for almost six minutes before we’re treated to Divine Defector, devastating form start to finish thanks to the pounding beats by Will, and albeit not a brilliant song it’s still classic Thrash Metal and a good option for slamming into the pit. And more melodic but utterly aggressive, Death Angel put the pedal to the metal in another feast of classic guitar lines, nonstop drums and raspy vociferations in Aggressor, with Rob and Ted doing a very good job with both their acoustic lines and electrified riffs.

I Came for Blood, my favorite of all songs, is a fast and infuriated explosion of old school thrash where its guitars couldn’t sound more thrilling, while Damien and Will bring sheer thunder with their respective instruments, not to mention the song’s aggressive, take-no-prisoners-like lyrics (“The bloody nose of victory / Fueled by seeds of hate / Make peace with my enemies? / No chance, not today / I’ve traveled through the unknown / That is where I thrive / You chose to say my name aloud / So I shall never die”). Featuring the smooth piano by Ukrainian guest musician Vika Yermolyeva, Immortal Behated is a pensive and beautiful metal tune, very detailed and full of layers and nuances, and also presenting crisp guitar solos, intricate drumming and endless darkness to heighten our senses, whereas in Alive and Screaming they get back to their trademark berserk mode, with Mark being on fire on vocals supported by his bandmates’ potent backing vocals, showcasing once again a demolishing job done by Will on drums. And The Pack, as Mark himself says, is a call to arms, sounding as if the band wants to gather all thrashing wolves to fight side by side with them, with Rob and Ted stealing the spotlight with their flammable riffage.

Children Of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho delivers a vibrant guitar solo in Ghost of Me, another fast-paced, high-octane tune with Mark firing his trademark screams, bringing to our ears riffs and solos played at the speed of light, therefore inspiring us all to slam into the pit like maniacs. Next, it’s time for Jason Suecof to fire a guitar solo in Revelation Song, focusing on the melody rather than the speed and offering another blast of dark poetry by the band (“Watch for their people dawning / Watch for their evil task / A negative space revival / A negative faceless mask, hey / A child to be so wicked / Coming to steal your mind / Lost in a destructive space / Lost in a revolting time”), with Damien’s bass sounding truly ominous in the background. Of Rats and Men is a generic version of their own music, which despite Mark’s efforts to make it more engaging the music never really takes off, while The Day I Walked Away, some sort of a “bonus track” included in all versions of the album (and that’s why I don’t understand why it’s called a bonus track), is one more not-so-exciting song by the band with a bland sound and vibe, but still presenting some good moments such as the guitar solos blasted by Rob and Ted.

In summary, as already mentioned Humanicide (available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from several locations as you can see HERE) is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still an above average album of old school thrash that definitely deserves a shot. To be honest with you, I would love to see Death Angel go back to the more diverse and crisp musicality found in The Evil Divide, but of course I wouldn’t complain at all if they decide to keep following the same formula and deliver to us another ten albums on the same vein as Humanicide in the coming years. And for a great band like Death Angel, who have always crafted first-class Thrash Metal since their beginnings, that’s more than enough to keep us happy.

Best moments of the album: Humanicide, I Came for Blood, Immortal Behated and The Pack.

Worst moments of the album: Of Rats and Men and The Day I Walked Away.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Humanicide 5:42
2. Divine Defector 3:24
3. Aggressor 5:11
4. I Came for Blood 3:12
5. Immortal Behated 6:08
6. Alive and Screaming 3:36
7. The Pack 3:33
8. Ghost of Me 4:34
9. Revelation Song 5:33
10. Of Rats and Men 4:08
11. The Day I Walked Away 3:29

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

Guest musicians
Alexi Laiho – lead guitars on “Ghost of Me”
Jason Suecof – lead guitars on “Revelation Song”
Vika Yermolyeva – piano on “Immortal Behated”