Album Review – Winterhymn / Blood & Shadow (2016)

If your fearless heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, you’ll definitely enjoy this excellent compilation of songs perfect for your mead-drinking and mud-fighting parties.


Blood&Shadow_FrontAlthough I couldn’t see Pagan/Folk Metal squad Winterhymn kicking ass live during Paganfest America Part V here in Toronto in 2014 due to traffic issues (as you can read HERE), I went after their music to get to know more about this American sextet, and let me tell you I was impressed with the energy, passion and creativity flowing from their symphonic and progressive compositions. With that said, I guess I don’t need to mention how excited I got when I received their brand new album for review, the melodious Blood & Shadow, right?

Since their inception in 2009, these folk metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio have been bringing the epicness of Celtic and Scandinavian Folk sounds to the United States, starting with their 2011 debut album Songs for the Slain until this year’s Blood & Shadow, also sharing the stage with renowned names like Eluveitie, Turisas, Chthonic, Arkona and many others. Featuring a beautiful and sanguinary artwork by Irish artist Vasilis Zikos, reflecting a scene from Winterhymn’s personal mythos (which the album is entirely based upon), Blood & Shadow is the soundtrack for drinking lots of mead and getting in random fights in the mud around a bonfire, all embraced by the undeniable talent of four brave lads and two stunning maidens.

Blending elements from Folk and Black Metal with hints of Power Metal, the melodic battle chant Blood of the Moon kicks off the album on a high note by bringing forward a very epic rhythm with highlights to the mesmerizing sound by violinist Umbriel, followed by Dream of Might, which leans towards pure Folk Metal. Albeit slower than the opening track, it still offers a high dosage of epicness, with the vocals by lead singer and guitarist Draug being perfectly complemented by the pounding drums by Valthrun and the once again incredible violin sounds by Umbriel. And the outstanding Pagan Metal composition Blood Burner is one of those songs tailored for fans of vicious battle chants who love to slam into the circle pit with a pint of cold beer in hand, with Draug and Varrik providing some exciting riffs and solos while Valthrun doesn’t let the amazing energy in the music go down.

Less violent and with a more progressive flow (but still very impactful), Legacy in Flames offers lyrics about the everyday life of a warrior nicely declaimed by Draug and bassist Alvadar (“We hunt our prey / With our last breath / By the sanguine moon / Through realms of death / So curse our name / You’ll be slaughtered all the same / Your legacy in flames”), with its last part being highly recommended for prancing around a fire pit with a pint of mead; whereas The Summoning displays a higher focus on Death Metal guttural vocals while instrumental is purely Folk Metal, a good balance that works well for a while but that unfortunately falls flat close to the end of it. Seafarer, a “Middle Earth-inspired song”, is a semi-acoustic ballad where violin and acoustic guitars generate the perfect atmosphere for Draug and his clean vocals, a soulful break from the band’s traditional battle hymns before Silenced by the Northern Winds gets back to brutal folk music with Draug leading the band’s onrush with his imposing growls, boosted by an excellent guitar solo to properly conclude this thrilling tune.

zGroup (22)In Shadow We Ride, another classic Folk Metal tune by Winterhymn, offers the listener slower beats and a fighting vibe, with its second half getting slightly heavier and, consequently, adding some extra flavor to the overall result (especially the potent bass lines by Alvadar). And in Huntsman, a serene intro morphs into brutal Pagan Metal, with its lyrics being everything a fan of this type of music loves (“They marched across the Iron Jaw with sword and helm / Seeking fabled woodland doorways to the twilight realms / The proudest of their captains are now hunted like boars / Their banners lie in gory pools upon the forest floor”). Moreover, all instruments sound potent and sharp, accrediting it to be one of the best songs of the new album for their live performances.

The final triad of Folk Metal in Blood & Shadow begins with the electrifying The Wolf’s Head, where Death and Power Metal elements arise. The song’s riffs and solos, together with the precise drumming by Valthrun, set the music on fire, with both guttural and clean vocals and the background sonority crafted by Umbriel and Exura on violin and keyboards, respectively, being absolutely outstanding. Into the Depths shows the whole band still has enough fuel for more Epic Pagan Metal, which after a solid intro gets heavier than almost everything from the album, not to mention the heroic singing by Draug. And lastly, Umbriel dictates the rhythm through her fast and melodious violin in The Chosen End, where all band members unite to provide the listener a full-bodied composition overflowing courage, passion and pain, a climatic ending for such a professional album.

If your courageous heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, go check Winterhymn’s Facebook page, as well as their YouTube channel and ReverbNation page, and don’t forget to buy their new album at the SoundAge Productions’ webstore, at the band’s BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. As aforementioned, there’s no better way to get drunk with mead and engage into mud-fighting than to the sound of such an amazing band like Winterhymn.

Best moments of the album: Blood Burner, Silenced by the Northern Winds and The Wolf’s Head.

Worst moments of the album: The Summoning.

Released in 2016 SoundAge Productions

Track listing
1. Blood of the Moon 3:48
2. Dream of Might 3:59
3. Blood Burner 3:19
4. Legacy in Flames 4:51
5. The Summoning 4:12
6. Seafarer 3:20
7. Silenced by the Northern Winds 6:53
8. In Shadow We Ride 4:47
9. Huntsman 5:23
10. The Wolf’s Head 3:39
11. Into the Depths 6:25
12. The Chosen End 4:31

Band members
Draug – vocals, lead guitar
Varrik – guitar
Alvadar – bass, backing vocals
Exura – keyboards
Umbriel – violin
Valthrun – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Lygbereth


See her crimson sword… The great queen, holy raven!

Let’s continue our journey through the dark realms of Black Metal by paying a tribute to the talented Turkish musician Duygu Gurcu, sometimes referred to as Naenia Virtus, but most commonly known as Lygbereth, the electrifying bassist for Turkish Black Metal/Epic Pagan Metal band Sirannon. And let me tell you that after knowing more about her life you’ll be amazed by how skillful this woman is, because not only she’s a badass bassist, but also a singer, a songwriter, an editor and, oddly enough for many people but not for millions of headbangers all around the world who have regular jobs just like any non-metal person, a hard working businesswoman committed to success.

Born in the year of 1983 in the city of Istanbul, Turkey, Lygbereth began her path in the world of music at the age of 7, when she started taking west music training (singing and piano) until the age of 12. During that period, she composed her first sonata with her piano teacher at the age of 9, also taking the stage for many recitals. Although that doesn’t sound very “Black Metal” for most of you, let me remind you she was just a little girl starting to carve her personality and experimenting different ways of applying her skills in music, and of course we all know how important an instrument like a piano is for children to expand their music horizons and boost their creativity.

Although she unfortunately had to suspend her musical training due to family issues and her education, it didn’t take too long for her to get back in action and work with her first band, Turkish Black Metal act Pogrom, where under her real name Duygu she did both guttural and clean vocals. When you have a true passion for something it looks like you can’t stay away from it for a long period of time no matter what, and when that passion is music that gets even harder, don’t you agree? Anyway, you can take a good listen at the band’s 2005 demo entitled At the Peak of Toros, where they blast our minds with three songs beautifully entitled Nergal Eyes Has Appeared at the Peak of Toros, Her Cries Echo at My Malice… and A Volcano Become to Extinct. I’m just not sure if Duygu was part of this demo, though.

After Pogrom she was involved with another Turkish Black Metal group called Nefastum as their vocalist, composer, editor and lyricist, playing several concerts with them. This case is no different than Pogrom, as I couldn’t find any reliable source online confirming if Duygu was part of any of Nefastum’s official releases, but you can get a sense of how obscure their music is by listening to the excellent tune Seals of Demogorgon. She was also part of Turkish Black Metal band Serpenta as their vocalist, bassist and songwriter, having recorded with the band a demo entitled Ophiliama in 2004, and an EP named Transformation in 2007. If you’re a diehard Black Metal fan, you can enjoy the gorgeous Duygu kicking ass with Serpenta through her harsh vocals and resonant bass lines in the violent song Masterpiece Of War.

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It was just in 2007 when she joined Sirannon as their bassist, hence becoming Lygbereth, and since then she has been part of the band’s metamorphosis from pure Black Metal in their early days to a more complex Epic Pagan Metal in recent years. Obviously, the lyrics also shifted from themes such as war, pain, darkness and melancholy to topics more suitable to their new sounding like Paganism and mythology. Just out of curiosity, Sirannon was formed in 2005 by drummer Wesretkau (currently known as Thuringwethil) in the city of Izmir, the third most populous city in Turkey (after Istanbul and Ankara) with almost 3 million people, located about 500km southwest of Istanbul. Since joining this amazing Turkish act, she has recorded with them the split album International Black Scene Vol.1 in 2010, the full-length album Semper Caliga in 2011, and more recently an EP entitled Forgotten Laments Of The Forsaken in 2014, when the music direction of the band finally switched to a more melodic and intricate sounding almost completely. In addition to that, her role inside the band has also expanded significantly, from being only their bass player in the beginning to being responsible for the bass guitar, programming and samples in their latest albums.

In case you want to know more about the music by Sirannon, simply visit their YouTube channel or SoundCloud page and you’ll find many brutal compositions such as Ethereal Empire and The Holy Raven, as well as some videos of their live performance on May 18, 2008 at the Dungeon, in Izmir, playing the songs In The Shadow Of The Excommunication, Magna Mater and Children Of The Wolves.

Regarding her favorite bands and artists, Lygbereth provided an extensive list of important names in the world of extreme music as her main influences like Dark Funeral, Carpathian Forest, Ragnarok, Immortal, Satyricon, Emperor, Bathory, Enslaved, Old Man’s Child, among lots of other renowned icons. However, do not expect to find Lygbereth wandering the streets of Istanbul all geared up in leather and spikes and with her corpsepainting on, because as aforementioned our metal chick is also a dexterous working woman in her city. According to her LinkedIn profile, Lygbereth (or in this case Duygu Gurcu) has recently worked as an Import Operations, Senior Executive/Ocean Freight Import Executive at Veritas International Transport Co. Ltd. in Istanbul, an unthinkable position for most black metallers in the world. Well, as Lygbereth means “The Serpent Queen” in Elf Language, can you imagine how awesome it would be to work for a “serpent boss” like her?

Ibanez Eurodyn
Behringer 45 watt/Ultrabass BXL450A
Behringer dynamic bass compressor & pre-amp
Shure c 606 microphone

Sirannon’s Official Facebook page
Sirannon’s Official Twitter

Metal Chick of the Month – Masha Scream


Славься, Русь, Земля моя!

We all agree that pretty much any Russian girl could be one of Victoria’s Secret’s best top models. What some of us don’t know is that many of those сексуальная women are also very talented artists, such as our Heavy Metal babe this month, the awesome Masha Scream, the founder, vocalist and main songwriter of Russian Epic Pagan Metal band Arkona (or Аркона, in Russian).

Born on January 9, 1983 in the Russian capital Moscow, Masha Scream’s real name is Maria Arkhipova (or Мари́я Архипова, in Russian). Although her musical influences and background come mainly from Pagan Metal, Black Metal and Folk Metal, Masha has mentioned in many interviews that Arkona is not just a music band, especially in regards to her creative process. There’s a lot of experimentation and development in the music created by Masha, in order to present to people her view of the world and what is in her soul, which means that basically nothing limits her in this process. According to Masha herself, “I’m inspired by life and all depends on the situation around me. Every my song is an emotional flash or pain about something.”

To date, Masha has already recorded with Arkona seven full-length studio albums and one EP, which are Vozrozhdeniye (2004), Lepta (2004), Vo Slavu Velikim! (2005), Ot Serdtsa K Nebu (2007), Goi, Rode, Goi! (2009), Stenka Na Stenku EP (2011), Slovo (2011), and Yav (2014), as well as three live albums called Zhizn Vo Slavu (2006), Noch Velesova (2009) and Decade of Glory (2013). A very curious fact happened on March 11, 2010, when a short clip of the song Yarilo, from the album Goi, Rode, Goi!, was featured on the St. Patrick’s Day episode of the U.S. version of the TV series The Office. The scene shows three janitors, who are probably Russian, entering the office with the song playing while the workers were still there, forced to work late.

Apart from Arkona, Masha has also recorded one full-length album with Russian Black Metal band Nargathrond, named Inevitability (2004); and was also the lead singer for Russian Doom/Power Metal band Slavery, that time as Masha Arhipova, during the year of 2000.

Masha has also appeared as a guest musician in many different bands and projects, and that was not only in Russia. To name a few, her powerful voice can be enjoyed on Russian Folk Metal band Svarga‘s first two albums (Ogni na Kurganah, from 2005, and There, Where Woods Doze…, from 2007), on Slovakian Folk Black Metal band Ancestral Volkhves‘ second studio album Perun Do Vas!!!, from 2008, on Russian Folk/Pagan Metal band Alkonost’s album The Path We’ve Never Made, from 2006, and on Russian Folk/Black Metal band Rossomahaar’s album The Reign of Terror, from 2010, among others.

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All that creativity and passion for music is also represented in Masha’s life by the incredible amount of different music instruments she can play. She doesn’t only sing extremely well, but she also plays keyboards, percussion, tambourine, komuz, acoustic guitars, shaker, and since 2002 she’s been also playing the Shaman’s drum. Our Russian diva also mentioned in one of her interviews that despite not being into politics at all, she truly loves the long and very complicated history of her country, especially its nature. This can be seen in any of Arkona’s videos, such as Slavsia, RusLiki Bessmertnykh Bogov and Zov Pustyh Dereven, where she’s in total contact with the four classical elements of nature, and in her lyrics always full of passion for all Russian and nature things. In my opinion, these are the key points that make Masha and her music so unique and captivating in the world of Heavy Metal, and something very few people are able to imitate or replicate in such a sublime (and aggressive) way.

Thereat,  not even the fact that Arkona’s music is totally sung in Russian has stopped Masha and her bandmates from conquering the world: the band has already been to different parts of the world to show their mighty music, including countries such as Germany, Sweden, Belgium, USA, Canada, Brazil, England, Italy, Portugal and many others. Among all of their tours and concerts, Masha mentioned that one of Arkona’s craziest experiences happened in the beginning of 2013 when the band went on the amazing 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise to the Caribbean, as one of the 40 attractions playing during the four-day cruise. “There were 4,000 people on board, a buffet and so many interesting things! We had a cabin with access to the ocean, and I was even lucky enough to see flying fish through the window.”, she said.

Of course nothing is perfect: Masha is married to her fellow band member Sergei “Lazar” Atrashkevich, with whom she has two children, so you can already stop dreaming about winning her heart and be satisfied by just admiring her beauty and her stunning music.

Masha Scream’s Official Facebook page
Masha Scream’s Official Twitter
Masha Scream’s Official VKontakte
Arkona’s Official Facebook page

“You don’t need to regret about what you have done because it’s part of your life and also part of you. You just need to remember your mistakes and to not make them again in the future!” – Masha Scream