Album Review – KK’s Priest / Sermons of the Sinner (2021)

Are you ready to listen to the sermons of this classic Heavy Metal band of sinners?

Back in January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just about to hit us all really hard, Mr. Kenneth Downing, Jr., better known as Judas Priest’s former guitarist KK Downing, announced he would work on brand new music alongside former Judas Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, guitarist A.J. Mills, bassist Tony Newton and drummer Les Binks (who also played with Judas Priest from 1977 to 1979), later replaced by Sean Elg due to a wrist injury, forming a classic metal band that goes by the name of KK’s Priest. Most probably due to the pandemic, the band’s debut effort Sermons of the Sinner, which was produced and mixed by KK himself together with Tony, and mastered by Ade Emsley (Iron Maiden, Blaze Bayley, Absolva) at Table of Tone Mastering, had to be delayed up until this month, but the wait was totally worth it despite the band’s cheesy name and the album’s even cheesier lyrics, as KK and his henchmen brought forth a solid, old school Heavy Metal album that will certainly please most admirers of KK’s undisputed career.

In the intro Incarnation, a heavy storm, the sound of thunder and an ominous background narration set the stage for the band to kick some serious ass in Hellfire Thunderbolt, where the metallic riffs by KK and A.J. provide Ripper all he needs to stun us all with his infernal roars while Sean dictates the song’s old school pace. This is what I call an pulverizing welcome card by KK’s Priest, whereas in Sermons of the Sinner, even more epic and demonic than its predecessor, Ripper steals the spotlight with a flawless vocal performance supported by the rumbling bass by Tony and the crushing drums by Sean, while KK delivers his trademark fiery solos in a newborn metal classic. Then it’s time for another pure Heavy Metal extravaganza titled Sacerdote y Diablo, with Ripper sounding awesome as usual on vocals while we’re also treated to some epic background elements as a complement to the band’s incendiary sound. And Raise Your Fists is a straightforward Heavy Metal hymn perfect for their upcoming live concerts, presenting a great sync between KK and A.J. supported by the spot-on bass by Tony.

In Brothers of the Road, albeit the lyrics are cheesy as hell they do what they’re supposed to anyway, walking hand in hand with its direct sound that’s not as awesome as the rest of the album, but still very enjoyable. Then a melancholic start is gradually accompanied by the pounding beats by Sean in Metal Through and Through, bringing forward elements from the darkest creations by Black Sabbath with Dio on vocals (when they were called Heaven & Hell), or in other words, it showcases a beautiful Doom Metal vibe; and let’s put the pedal to the metal as KK is on absolute fire in Wild and Free, an in-your-face onrush of heavy and piercing sounds that will put you to bang your head nonstop, led by the visceral, soaring vocals by Ripper. In Hail for the Priest I’m not sure if KK’s trying to send a message to the guys from Judas Priest or simply saying he’s the real Judas Priest; either way, simply forget about their beef and enjoy another solid metal tune where KK once again slashes his axe in great fashion, followed by Return of the Sentinel, another direct mention to Judas Priest (more specifically to their classic song “The Sentinel”) showcasing a great job done on the guitars and bass while Ripper declaims the song’s words with tons of power, resulting in what’s by far the album’s most epic creation.

If you haven’t given Sermons of the Sinner a try yet, you can enjoy it in full on Spotify, and also get to know more about KK’s plans for the future with his new band on Facebook and on Instagram, enjoy all of their videos on YouTube, and grab your copy of the album by clicking HERE. When speaking to KNAC in June this year about Sermons of the Sinner, KK said that he was already working on material for the next album by KK’s Priest, which would be more of a collaboration effort than the first album, and if it’s half as good as Sermons of the Sinner we can rest assured there will be a lot of high-end metal music for us in the near future. I just wish he could change the name of the band to something more creative and unique, but let’s face it, in the end that doesn’t really matter as it’s always about the music, and the music found in Sermons of the Sinner is beyond awesome.

Best moments of the album: Hellfire Thunderbolt, Sermons of the Sinner, Metal Through and Through and Wild and Free.

Worst moments of the album: Brothers of the Road.

Released in 2021 EX1 Records

Track listing
1. Incarnation 0:58
2. Hellfire Thunderbolt 3:49
3. Sermons of the Sinner 5:25
4. Sacerdote y Diablo 5:35
5. Raise Your Fists 4:10
6. Brothers of the Road 3:22
7. Metal Through and Through 8:13
8. Wild and Free 4:15
9. Hail for the Priest 5:44
10. Return of the Sentinel 8:59

Band members
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
KK Downing – guitars
A.J. Mills – guitars
Tony Newton – bass
Sean Elg – drums

Album Review – Carcass / Torn Arteries (2021)

It’s time to wake up once again and smell the bloody and melodic new album by one of the most important bands in the history of extreme music.

If you have a craving for bloody, raw Extreme Metal, get ready to be stunned by Torn Arteries, the brand new opus by Liverpool, UK-based Grindcore masters Carcass, unleashing hell, violence and gore upon us all mere mortals. Recorded at Ghost Ward Studio and The Stationhouse, mixed at Ghost Ward Studio, mastered at Fascination Street Studios and featuring a beautiful artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak, Torn Arteries is not only the band’s seventh studio album, but their first in eight years since the majestic Surgical Steel, released in 2013, and the wait was absolutely worth it as vocalist and bassist Jeff Walker, guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Daniel Wilding are on fire from start to finish, showcasing all their refined skills while blending the aggressiveness of extreme music with their trademark melody and visceral lyrics.

Daniel kicks off their splatter show with the title-track Torn Arteries, with Jeff’s sick gnarls sounding better than ever for our total delight. What a pulverizing start to the album I might say, not to mention the demented riffs and solos by Bill, and it’s time to crack your neck headbanging to Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B), less violent but extremely melodic and sharp with Bill stealing the spotlight with his unmatched riffage, whereas a wicked guitar solo ignites another Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore extravaganza titled Eleanor Rigor Mortis, accompanied by the always raw and vile growling by Jeff while Daniel’s drums dictate the song’s old school pace. Then we have Under the Scalpel Blade, the only song to feature in their 2020 EP Despicable (and we already know how infernal this tune is), while more of their putrid, acid metal music is brought into being in The Devil Rides Out, again proving why they’re a reference in both Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore, with Bill’s riffs and solos being awesome as usual.

Carcass Torn Arteries Limited Box Set

As heavy and aggressive as its predecessors, Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited is a fulminating tune where Jeff is not only bestial on vocals but his bass also sounds hellish, being the perfect option for banging your head like a maniac together with the band throughout its almost 10 minutes where savagery and harmony collide in a vicious way, therefore offering our ears a unique metal voyage. The groovy beats by Daniel once again ignite a Grindcore attack entitled Kelly’s Meat Emporium, with Jeff and Bill being in absolute sync with their respective bass lines and riffs, inviting us all to slam into the circle pit, whereas in In God We Trust a sinister start quickly evolves into a rhythmic and heavy-as-hell sound spearheaded by Daniel’s classy drums, all spiced up by Bill’s undisputed, sharp solos. Then paying homage to themselves, the trio blasts the headbanging tune Wake Up and Smell the Carcass / Caveat Emptor, showcasing another awesome guitar job by Bill while Jeff continues to haunt our souls with his demonic gnarls. And their last breath of insanity and gore comes in the form of The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing, where Jeff, Bill and Daniel smash their sonic weapons in great fashion offering us all another solid tune to close such austere and melodic album.

As Carcass are not only an awesome band but also a group of very nice gentlemen, they’ve made the full album available on both YouTube and Spotify for our vulgar delectation, but of course let’s support the masters of Melodic Death Metal and Grindcore by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and by purchasing a copy of their bloodthirsty new album from Nuclear Blast by clicking HERE or HERE, and if I were you I would go for the sick Torn Arteries boxset limited to 2,000 worldwide, including the album on CD and veggie splatter vinyl, a 24-page booklet, and a porcelain plate with a stainless steel fork and knife dinnerware set. It’s time to wake up and smell the carcass to the sound of Torn Arteries, knowing that as long as Carcass remain active, their smell will continue to be a thrilling fusion of metal music, blood, speed and violence.

Best moments of the album: Torn Arteries, Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited and Kelly’s Meat Emporium.

Worst moments of the album: Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B).

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Torn Arteries 4:00
2. Dance of IXTAB (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No.1 in B) 4:29
3. Eleanor Rigor Mortis 4:14
4. Under the Scalpel Blade 3:56
5. The Devil Rides Out 5:22
6. Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited 9:42
7. Kelly’s Meat Emporium 3:24
8. In God We Trust 3:57
9. Wake Up and Smell the Carcass / Caveat Emptor 4:36
10. The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing 5:20

Japanese Edition bonus track
11. NWOBHEAD 3:03

Band members
Jeff Walker – vocals, bass
Bill Steer – guitars, backing vocals
Daniel Wilding – drums

Guest musician
Tom Draper – guitars (live)
Per Wiberg – organ, piano
Fredrik Klingwall – keyboards

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 – 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

Beverage Review – Iron Maiden’s Red ‘N’ Black

The morals of life and the perils of death in the form of a delicious porter style beer full of “the red and the black.”

3.5rating

iron-maiden-beer-red-n-black-logo“The red and the black, people don’t want the truth, look in their eyes and you send them away
The red and the black, fate and hypocrisy, burden’s a heavy load there is no doubt
The red and the black, all out of luck again, how many chances can anyone have
The red and the black, treachery out to win, there in the wrong place and at the wrong time.”

As we’re getting closer and closer to the release of Senjutsu, the seventeenth studio album by the one and only Iron Maiden, let’s have a round of special reviews in celebration of their new album that will see the light of day exactly one month from today, on September 3, starting with our (belated) review of Iron Maiden’s Red ‘N’ Black porter, one of the best creations from the list of Iron Maiden beers so far by the indomitable Bruce Dickinson and Robinsons Brewery. After having tasted the original Trooper Beer, plus the excellent Hallowed and Sun and Steel, I was finally able to grab a few bottles of Red ‘N’ Black and, although I’m not a big fan of dark beers, I must admit this one provided me a very pleasant drinking exercise.

Having its name inspired by one of the best compositions by Iron Maiden after the return of Bruce on vocals over 20 years ago when Brave New World was released, that being The Red And The Black from the majestic The Book Of Souls, Iron Maiden’s Red ‘N’ Black is a modern take on a recipe that dates back to the 1850’s, a time when porter style beer was becoming increasingly popular in Britain. At 6.8% in bottle or 5.8% ABV in cask, Red ‘N’ Black is the first dark beer in the Trooper ranks and the strongest beer in the range to date, showcasing a blend of chocolate and crystal malt that gives this full-bodied beer a roasted malt and caramel backbone, while the Robinsons’ yeast provides hints of both liquorice and honey to create a delicious warming brew. “I like tasting outside the box. Stouts and porters were virgin territory for me so I just went by feel. Martyn and I hope we have created a new take on a classic beer and one which I hope will tickle the taste buds of ale fans in a pleasantly unexpected way,” explained Bruce when the beer was about to be launched.

As I already mentioned, I had a very good time savoring all the 500mL from the Red ‘N’ Black bottle (while of course listening to The Red And The Black) even not being a huge fan of dark beers, and the reason for that is mainly due to the lack of that (way too) strong bitterness that several porters out in the market have. Bruce and Robinsons Brewery managed to turn Red ‘N’ Black into a very easy-drinking beer, and you won’t even notice its 6.8% ABV. Furthermore, this is an amazing option to pair with an aged or fruity cheese, to taste it right after you devour some good old ribs, or to simply enjoy it by itself while watching a football match on TV. I still consider Sun and Steel as my top Iron Maiden beer so far, but as I said that’s due to my personal taste for lighter beers; however, I can also state that Red ‘N’ Black is by far my top dark beer, being very tasteful, smooth and, as mentioned in the official description of the beer, pleasantly warming.

iron-maiden-beer-red-n-blackGood luck trying to find it now, though, as the beer was advertised as a limited edition back when it was originally launched, which means it’s going to be tough finding a bottle for sale anywhere. For instance, you can’t find it using the UK Trooper Finder nor the US Trooper Finder, it’s not available from the Iron Maiden Beer webstore, from the Robinsons Brewery official website, nor from Iron Maiden Beer Canada (where The Headbanging Moose is located). But who knows? Maybe you live in a privileged country or area where there are still a few bottles of Red ‘N’ Black available, right? And if you find at least one bottle, save it for September 3 to celebrate the release of the highly anticipated Senjutsu. Unless you want to go full samurai and drink a pint of Sun and Steel on launch date instead, of course.

Beer details
Style: Porter – English
ABV: 6.8%
From: Robinsons Family Brewers
Country: England, United Kingdom

Album Review – Internal Conflict / A P O R I A (2021)

Over 40 minutes of first-class Metalcore made in the UK, delivering a deep exploration of modern metal whilst reflecting on society and what it is to be human in deeply challenging times.

3.5rating

internal-conflict-aporia-2021Following their 2018 EP Nothing Is Lost and continuing their progressive creativity and innovative take on Heavy Metal, A P O R I A, the sophomore opus by Leicester, England-based Metalcore/Thrash Metal outfit Internal Conflict, is part brutal, part melodic, delivering a deep exploration of modern metal whilst the lyrical themes reflect on society and what it is to be human in deeply challenging times. Mixed and mastered by Neil Hudson at Initiate Audio & Media Studios and displaying a stunning artwork designed by Domonic Sohor, A P O R I A is undoubtedly the band’s strongest effort to date, proving why vocalist Adam Kyle, guitarists Sean Rice and Matt Hall, bassist Dan Laffar and drummer Chris Bentley carved themselves a slot at the renowned Bloodstock Open Air next month.

Chris begins his metal attack from the very firs second in the awesome fusion of Metalcore and Thrash Metal titled Kingdom of Apathy, offering Adam all he needs to roar and scream manically, not to mention his clean vocals are also powerful and full of rage, whereas a serene intro quickly explodes into another feast of heavy riffs, crushing drums and visceral vocals in Paraesthesia, sounding very modern and thrilling and, therefore, resulting in a great option for banging our heads nonstop with the band. The quintet speeds things up a bit and gets heavier-than-hell in Atlas Down, with Adam’s vocals sounding even more demented while Sean and Matt slash their guitars mercilessly, supported by the classic bass lines by Dan; and Bleed the Sky is one more tune inspired by contemporary Metalcore that will please all fans of the genre, with the piercing sound of their guitars bringing endless heaviness to the final result, also showcasing an electrifying paradox between clean and harsh vocals.

Let’s keep cracking our necks headbanging to the pounding beats by Chris in Hollow Heart, also offering our ears those classic atmospheric and melancholic moments from Metalcore, followed by Traitorous, a good song where Internal Conflict keep delivering their trademark sound, but that lacks the violence and punch from its predecessors, sounding a bit repetitive after a while. Nothing that truly harms the album, though. The second to last blast of heavy music by those British metallers comes in the form of The Line, with Sean, Matt and Dan sounding venomous with their stringed weapons, once again generating a dense ambience for Adam to kill with his vile screams; and closing the album it’s time for a six-minute Metalcore journey infused with Thrash, Groove and Heavy Metal elements entitled Kayfabe, with the old school riffage by the band’s guitar duo walking hand in hand with the rhythmic beats by Chris.

internal-conflict-2021You can get to know more about Internal Conflict by following the band on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their official YouTube channel for more of their thrilling fusion of modern-day metal music with old school nuances, and above all that, show your support to UK’s underground by purchasing a physical copy of A P O R I A by clicking HERE or by purchasing a digital copy of the album or streaming it on your favorite platform by clicking HERE. If you’re attending Bloodstock Open Air this August, there you have a fantastic chance to witness Internal Conflict kicking some ass on stage playing several songs from A P O R I A live (as well as some of their previous creations), showing you why they can be considered one of the leaders of the Metalcore scene in their homeland and, of course, why we can rest assured we’ll hear a lot more from those British musicians sooner than we can imagine.

Best moments of the album: Kingdom of Apathy, Atlas Down and Kayfabe.

Worst moments of the album: Traitorous.

Released in 2021 PHD

Track listing 
1. Kingdom of Apathy 5:28
2. Paraesthesia 4:12
3. Atlas Down 4:29
4. Bleed the Sky 5:17
5. Hollow Heart 5:02
6. Traitorous 3:56
7. The Line 5:43
8. Kayfabe 6:10

Band members
Adam Kyle – vocals
Sean Rice – lead guitar
Matt Hall – rhythm guitar
Dan Laffar – bass
Chris Bentley – drums

Interview – Alex Mancini (Unknown Refuge)

Do you know what it is to grow up in the digital age of expression? Let’s have a chat with Alex Mancini, the talented vocalist and bassist for UK rockers Unknown Refuge, where he talks about that, the band’s debut album From The Darkness, and a lot more.

alex-mancini-unknown-refuge

Alex Mancini (Unknown Refuge)

The Headbanging Moose: Thank you for your time in chatting with us today! Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers and talk a little about the idea behind Unknown Refuge?

Alex Mancini: Hi I’m Alex, I’m the lead singer from Unknown refuge, we originally formed in 2016. The idea Unknown Refuge really came from us needing a band name for our first gig, we looked around where we were rehearsing and I saw a sign that said refuge point which made me wonder where mine was and that’s where the idea Unknown Refuge came from.

THM: You guys have just released your debut album From The Darkness. How difficult was it for the band to record it, and what inspired each band member to write the songs from the album?

AM:   It wasn’t too difficult for the band to record it, it was just difficult in terms of organizing a time where we were all available to pit aside a few weeks. The songs primarily stem from things I come across in my own life and I reflect these themes through use of ideas such as mythology, wars and some of my own personal experiences.

THM: I had a very good time enjoying each and every track from the album, but of course everyone has a favorite song and in my case it’s I’m Not A Bad Guy. I just love the pace, the punch and the lyrics from this specific song. What about you guys? Which song or songs from the album are your favorite ones and why?

Alex: My favourite is Journey because it depicts a lot of my life and I really enjoy playing it.

Morgan Deveney (drums): I’d say Battle Hymn  is my favorite I just love the energy behind the riff and the drums.

Jack Tracey (lead guitar): I really like playing Palace Walls, I quite like the breakdown and think it gives it a really good feel.

Harry Skinner (rhythm guitar): I’d say my favorite is To The Light,  I just really enjoy that opening riff.

THM: Who are your main idols in music and in life in general, and how much do they influence the band’s style and lyrical content?

AM:   I’d say we take a lot of influence from old metal bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slash and we try and incorporate that with new ideas to form what we believe is a new style of Hard Rock/Metal.

unknown-refuge-from-the-darkness-2021_150x150

Album Review – Unknown Refuge / From The Darkness (2021)

THM: You might be tired already of answering questions about the effect of COVID-19 to the music scene worldwide, with of course a huge negative impact on the shows and events industry. How has this pandemic been to you guys? As you’re a fairly new band, do you think you’re suffering more or less than established bands out there?

AM: We’ve definitely been suffering less than bands that completely rely on that income. Fortunately we have jobs on the side as this isn’t our full time career; however it has presented its own struggles with trying to produce new music and get people interested whilst no gigs are available.

THM: When Unknown Refuge was formed back in 2016, you were still teenagers in your 15’s. How have you guys managed the balance between Unknown Refuge and your studies since the band’s inception? Apart from touring, of course, what else in your student’s life is let’s say hampering your work with the band?

AM: Music is something that we all love deeply and I believe that no matter what we’re doing outside of that we’ll always try and make the time to progress our musical careers as much as we can.

THM: All band members are really young and were pretty much born already in the digital era. However, I would like to know your opinion on illegal downloads, on streaming services such as Spotify versus buying the physical copy of an album, and so on. And taking all that into account, how do you envision the future of the music industry in the coming years?

AM: That’s a tough one, I personally love physical copies of music, I do not agree with illegal streaming or downloading and I think places such as Spotify and streaming services like that are slowly killing the music industry. I know that that’s how people consume content nowadays, I can’t see that changing, but for me personally I think physical copies will always hold a place in my heart as that’s what I was around whilst growing up with rocker parents.

THM: Let’s have some fun now and talk about what could be considered a “dream tour” for Unknown Refuge. If you could choose 2 or 3 bands to tour with for one year, who would those be and why?

AM: I’d say Alter Bridge, Volbeat and Iron Maiden would be absolutely amazing. We are all huge fans of these and to play with bands that we admire so much would be a dream come true.

unknown-refuge

Unknown Refuge

THM: What’s next for Unknown Refuge? Now that you have already released your first album, which is the most important milestone for any band, what else do you have planned for the band in the short and long term?

AM: As soon as we are able we are going to get out and gig as much as possible, beyond that hopefully we will have new material written and be looking at recording a second album soon.

THM: Once again, thanks a lot for your time and for letting us know a little more about Unknown Refuge! Keep on rockin’, and please feel free to send any final messages you want to our readers.

AM: Thank you for having us, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, and if you haven’t then please checkout our website and Facebook for updates as to what we have coming up!

Links
Unknown Refuge Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify | BandCamp | Big Cartel

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / War Within Me (2021)

The man who will live for a thousand years returns with the 11th studio album in his undisputed career, inspiring us all to fight the war within us and to take our future in our own hands.

In celebration of our 1000th review here at The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing more appropriate than reviewing the brand new opus by the man who will live for a thousand years, the indomitable Heavy Metal fighter Blaze Bayley. Moving forward from the success of his Infinite Entanglement trilogy released in three consecutive years (Infinite Entanglement in 2016, Endure And Survive in 2017, and The Redemption of William Black  in 2018), Blaze and his loyal Absolva henchmen Chris Appleton on the guitars, Karl Schramm on bass and Martin McNee on drums are unleashing upon humanity the awesome War Within Me, the 11th studio album in his extensive solo career which started with his legendary Silicon Messiah album in the year 2000. Mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd., and featuring another striking artwork by Spanish artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration, War Within Me is not a concept album but does include a positive thread throughout. In Blaze’s own words, “This is an album that I want to put on and feel very positive about. Whatever song you choose there’s some good feeling about it. As fans of metal music we tend to be damaged, strange and different in some way and this album is (as I say in my live intro to the song ‘Futureal’) about taking your future in your own hand. It’s one of the things that really connects with people at my live shows.”

The slashing riffage by Chris ignites the high-octane, pure Heavy Metal anthem War Within Me, with Blaze powerfully declaiming the song’s meaningful and inspirational words as usual, resulting in a sensational option for singing it along with Blaze & Co. while hitting the highway. Following such powerful tune, we have the also breathtaking 303, inspired by the No. 303 Squadron RAF, one of two Polish squadrons to fight during the Battle of Britain along with squadron 302, of 16 total Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Musically speaking, it’s another metallic feast where Karl and Martin kick some serious ass with their rumbling kitchen, not to mention the trademark guitar lines by Chris. And more of Blaze’s incendiary and energetic metal music comes in the form of Warrior, where Chris and Karl make a dynamic duo with their stringed weapons in a straightforward Heavy Metal extravaganza with some welcome Power Metal elements; followed by Pull Yourself Up, a rhythmic and stunning metal hymn from the bottom of Blaze’s heart to all metalheads out there, inviting everyone to walk and sing with him, accompanied by the sharp riffs by Chris and the marching beats by Martin. Then the entire band is on fire in another classic display of old school NWOBHM entitled Witches Night, where it’s impossible not to raise our fists together with Blaze during the song’s chorus, also showcasing a slashing performance by Chris on the guitars.

18 flights, 15 shows, 6 countries, 1 earthquake. That’s the story Blaze masterfully tells us in 18 Flights, narrating his adventures in January 2019 when there was an earthquake while the band was on stage at a very special gig organized by fans in Coquimbo, Chile called Blaze Fest. What a fun and thrilling way to tell that story through his undisputed Heavy Metal, I might say, whereas in The Dream of Alan Turing the unstoppable Blaze pays homage to the famous English scientist highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science and, of course, the music couldn’t have sounded more exciting, with Chris piercing our ears with his sick solos. Then it’s time to pay another tribute, this time to Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, with The Power of Nikola Tesla, a kick-ass tune where Blaze and his bandmates generate an electrifying ambience that matches perfectly with the song’s theme. And how about one more tribute to a great personality the likes of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking? That’s what Blaze has to offer in The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking, investing in a more epic, galloping rhythm, with the pounding drums by Martin dictating the pace while Blaze delivers his trademark vocals in great fashion. And last but not least, a final message of hope and positivity from the band is provided to us all in the closing tune Every Storm Ends, starting in a melancholic, acoustic way before evolving into a dark and metallic feast that flows smoothly until its delicate finale.

There’s no excuse not to follow the man who would not die Blaze Bayley and his talented bandmates on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course to stream all of his vast catalogue on Spotify (like I enjoy doing a lot on my free time). However, War Within Me is such a great album of classic Heavy Metal that it truly deserves to be part of the collection of anyone who considers him or herself a true headbanging bastard, and you can add it to your personal pile of ass-kicking albums by purchasing it from Blaze’s own webstore, as well as from an array of locations including Napalm Records, Season of Mist, HHV, Record Shop X, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon. Having said that, what are you waiting for to fight the never-ending war within you alongside Mr. Blaze Bayley? The time is now to fight for what’s yours and to take your future in your own hands, as Blaze himself likes to say, always to the sound of our beloved Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: War Within Me, 303, Pull Yourself Up and 18 Flights.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing
1. War Within Me 4:12
2. 303 3:19
3. Warrior 3:45
4. Pull Yourself Up 4:45
5. Witches Night 4:57
6. 18 Flights 3:45
7. The Dream of Alan Turing 2:47
8. The Power of Nikola Tesla 3:11
9. The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking 6:00
10. Every Storm Ends 5:08

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Album Review – Unknown Refuge / From The Darkness (2021)

Get ready to rock to the debut album by four young musicians hailing from the UK, offering us all ten electrifying songs dealing with the struggles of growing up in the digital age of expression.

Formed early in 2016 by Alex Mancini, then aged 15 as lead singer, and four friends from the Music and Performing Arts Service in Salford, a large English town directly west of Manchester city center, Bolton-based Hard Rock outfit Unknown Refuge offers an accomplished, mature sound and performance that will set your fillings on edge despite the young ages of its members, those being the aforementioned Alex Mancini on vocals and bass, Jack Tracey and Harry Skinner on the guitars, and Morgan Deveney on drums. Now in 2021 it’s time for such promising act to unleash upon us their debut album, entitled From The Darkness, a 10-track electrifying opus showcasing forward-thinking from those young rockers and demonstrating laser-sharp musicianship accompanied by thoughtful songwriting, telling the evolution of a songwriter’s life growing up as a teenager, the personal interests during those years as well as capturing some of the struggles faced while growing up in the digital age of expression.

The cinematic, obscure intro From The Darkness sets the stage for the quartet to kick some ass in To The Light, where Jack already fires a sick guitar solo as his welcome card, accompanied by the classic vocals by Alex and the rhythmic beats by Morgan, blending the most incendiary elements form Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll and old school Heavy Metal. Then with Alex’s menacing bass and Morgan’s heavy beats generating a thunderous ambience, the band fires the old school feast titled Kicked To The Floor, highly recommended for fans of the modern rock and metal music crafted by Alter Bridge; and it’s time for the boys to put the pedal to the metal and blast a Motörhead-fueled rockin’ tune titled Battle Hymn, showcasing slashing riffs by Jack and Harry while Alex leads his crew with his straightforward vocals and thunderous bass punches. And Shadows is another great composition by Unknown Refuge, bringing elements from the music by Volbeat and Godsmack to their core Hard Rock, with Morgan pounding his drums mercilessly nonstop.

Presenting hints of 80’s Heavy and Progressive Metal, which only proves how versatile the band is, Palace Walls is slightly darker than its predecessors, with Jack and Harry showcasing another awesome job on the guitars, not to mention how smoothly Alex’s vocals flow from start to finish, whereas razor-edged riffs ignite the also fun and vibrant Wall Of Lies, once again blending the past and present of rock music and with its thrilling pace being led by the rhythmic drumming by Morgan. Following such entertaining song, we face another round of their kick-ass modern-day Hard Rock in If The Gods Be Good, with Alex being supported by the band’s classic backing vocals, therefore being perfect for hitting the road or raising your horns on the dance floor. And speeding things up a bit, the quartet fires the Godsmack-inspired extravaganza I’m Not A Bad Guy, offering a hybrid of Alternative Rock and Metal with old school thrash the likes of Metallica, also with Jack and Harry being on absolute fire from start to finish. And last but not least, old school, epic riffs kick off the closing tune titled Journey, with its headbanging rhythm and dense atmosphere being exactly what Alex needs to declaim the song’s pensive words, putting a climatic ending to such powerful album of Rock N’ Roll.

It’s quite easy to join the boys from Unknown Refuge in their quest for Rock N’ Roll. All you need to do is follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, stream their music on Spotify, and above all that, grab your copy of From The Darkness from their own BandCamp page or Big Cartel (where by the way you’ll find an amazing bundle containing a CD, a charcoal grey Unknown Refuge shirt and four beer mats), or from Apple Music. Growing up as a teenager anywhere in the world nowadays is a true pain in the ass, but there’s nothing better than our good old Rock N’ Roll to guide us through such difficult times, just like what Unknown Refuge did in their debut album. That being said, how about hitting the dance floor to the high-octane music found in From The Darkness? It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or a grown-up, that will definitely make your day a lot better.

Best moments of the album: To The Light, Battle Hymn and I’m Not A Bad Guy.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. From The Darkness 1:09
2. To The Light 5:09
3. Kicked To The Floor 4:56
4. Battle Hymn 5:04
5. Shadows 3:32
6. Palace Walls 4:46
7. Wall Of Lies 3:23
8. If The Gods Be Good 3:14
9. I’m Not A Bad Guy 3:10
10. Journey 5:16

Band members
Alex Mancini – vocals, bass
Jack Tracey – lead guitar
Harry Skinner – rhythm guitar
Morgan Deveney – drums

Album Review – Wolvencrown / A Shadow Of What Once Was EP (2021)

The new EP by this UK Atmospheric Black Metal entity depicts a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor, enfolding the listener in layers of dream and memory.

Following up on the success of their 2019 critically acclaimed album Of Bark And Ash, Nottingham, England-based Atmospheric Black Metal horde Wolvencrown returns with a three-track EP titled A Shadow Of What Once Was, building upon the dynamic melodies and rich atmosphere of their debut opus. Showcasing a stunning artwork by Spanish illustrator Joan Llopis Doménech (Lustre, Sojourner, Ruadh), A Shadow Of What Once Was enfolds the listener in layers of dream and memory, summoning the scent of fallen leaves, the touch of evening mists and the howl of the pack upon the cold night breeze, all accompanied by the enthralling sounds crafted by vocalist and guitarist Nick, guitarist Jack, bassist Reece, keyboardist Will and drummer Matt. In other words, this is a release to be cherished, a dark treasure to uncover, a chance meeting upon a midnight path with long dead kings whose shades are swift of foot and sharp of tooth.

And they don’t waste a single second and begin blasting unfiltered, no shenanigans Atmospheric Black Metal in A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1, with Nick roaring and slashing his strings at the same time accompanied by the Doom Metal beats by Matt, not to mention the phantasmagorical keys by Will while also presenting elements from classic Norwegian Black Metal. Then we have A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2, the second part of this multi-layered extravaganza that is just as imposing and grandiose as its first act, with Will and Matt darkening the skies with their wicked keys and beats while Nick, Jack and Reece make an infernal stringed triumvirate, resulting in a captivating fusion of obscurity and madness with beautiful and atmospheric passages. Last but not least, get ready for over seven minutes of ethereal instrumental Atmospheric Black Metal made in the UK in Coming To An End, bringing forward a sinister Cradle of Filth-inspired vibe led by Will’s classy keys and the minimalist, tribal beats by Matt, therefore feeling like the soundtrack to a creepy horror movie.

After listening to their debut self-titled EP, to Of Bark and Ash, and now to A Shadow of What Once Was, I must say it’s truly impressive what the guys from Wolvencrown are capable of offering us fans of extreme and atmospheric music without sounding outdated or cheesy; quite the contrary, those UK metallers are always reinventing themselves and surprising us with new sounds, elements and nuances added to their core Atmospheric Black Metal. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook, and to grab your copy of A Shadow of What Once Was from their own BandCamp page or from Clobber Records in CD or cassette format or as a special bundle that comes with their 2017 debut self-titled EP. For some bands an EP might represent a stop gap release, a time filler between the serious business of full-length albums, but for this skillful UK band A Shadow of What Once Was represents a doorway to new visions, a fresh opportunity to explore and create something vital, alive and utterly essential, depicting a time when the primeval forest swathed their homeland in arboreal splendor.

Best moments of the album: A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Clobber Records

Track listing
1. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.1 5:22
2. A Shadow Of What Once Was pt.2 5:44
3. Coming To An End 7:04

Band members
Nick – vocals, guitars
Jack – guitars
Reece – bass
Will – keyboards
Matt – drums