Album Review – Reternity / A Test Of Shadows (2020)

Just one year after the release of their debut album, this German Melodic Heavy Metal outfit returns in full force with a worthy and stronger successor in every way.

Just one year after the release of Facing the Demon and after several successful club shows and festivals, the creative duo consisting of frontman Stefan Zörner and guitarist Carsten Sauter, together with guitarist Oskar Schmidt, bassist Didi Schenk and drummer Suat Gören, collectively known as Heilbronn, Germany-based Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Reternity, are back in full force with their sophomore album entitled A Test of Shadows, a worthy and stronger successor in every way. Produced in cooperation with Jonas Kümmerle at Analog Mixing Studio, A Test Of Shadows brings forward compact songs without unnecessary lengths, always spiced up by the melodic and expressive vocals of Stefan as well as the powerful and original riffs of Carsten, with a musical spectrum ranging from homages to the Speed and Thrash Metal scene of the blissful 80’s to heavy and danceable mid-tempo hymns and neck-breakers, resulting in a sound that should quickly grow on the heart of every friend of melodic, varied metal.

A creepy version to an excerpt from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony NO. 9 in D Minor, OP. 125: IV. Finale: Presto – Allegro Assai – Rezitativo – Allegro Assai sets the stage for Sniper’s Death, where Suat begins crushing his drums in great fashion, offering Stefan all he needs to shine on vocals in a thrilling and heavy-as-hell Melodic Heavy Metal feast, also showcasing Thrash Metal-infused guitars. There’s more of their groovy and smashing riffs in This Is the End, courtesy of the band’s infernal guitar duo Carsten and Oskar supported by Didi’s rumbling bass, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and exhaling pure metal, and it’s interesting to see how the band has invested a lot more on the thrill and heaviness of classic Heavy Metal this time rather than the melody of their previous release as in My Crush, with Stefan doing a great job declaiming the song’s passionate lyrics. In the title-track A Test of Shadows, a very progressive and dark creation by Reternity, Carsten’s and Oskar’s riffage sounds as razor-edged as possible, with Suat dictating the pace with his intricate beats and fills. Needless to say, this should sound amazing when played live; and  starting with elements from Groove Metal and from the heavier-than-usual rock blasted by Volbeat and Godsmack they offer us all A Grave Called Home, alternating between more introspective, serene moments and obscure, pounding guitars and drums.

Time to put the pedal to the metal once again in (We Were) the Gods, with Stefan’s precise vocal lines being amazingly supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals in a hybrid of classic Heavy Metal with contemporary Melodic Metal, not to mention Suat’s old school beats, and they keep hammering our heads with their fusion of harmony and aggressiveness in Falling Shadows, where Didi once again blasts metallic sounds form his bass while the band’s guitar duo offers our ears Iron Maiden-inspired riffs. In You’ll See the Sun they tried to sound a little bit more stoner or alternative than usual; however, it didn’t work as well as expected, with even Stefan’s vocals sounding uninspired and bland, feeling disconnected from the rest of such amazing album. Fortunately, in No Deeper Hole the boys get back to a more frantic and berserk mode thanks to the smashing drums by Suat and the always incendiary riffs and solos by Carsten and Oskar, and the sheer electricity flowing from all instruments will surely generate some nice circle pits during their live concerts. Lastly, obscure piano notes kick off the somber and melancholic Stranded, created in collaboration with Jazz musician Aljoscha Crema, by far the most personal of all songs where Stefan has another superb performance on vocals, putting a gentle and introspective ending to A Test Of Shadows.

In summary, if you consider yourself a diehard fan of melodic and classic Heavy Metal, I highly recommend you take a shot at A Test Of Shadows, first by streaming the album in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and then, even more important than that, by purchasing the album from your favorite retailer, including the MDD shop, Nuclear Blast, Apple Music and Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Reternity on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about Stefan, Carsten & Co., as I’m more than sure those German metallers will keep embellishing the airwaves with their refined and extremely pleasant creations for many years to come, just like what they have to offer us in A Test Of Shadows, an album that explains why not only the big German bands like Scorpions and Helloween have conquered the world of heavy music, but also why the underground scene in Germany is by far one of the best in the entire world.

Best moments of the album: (We Were) the Gods, Falling Shadows and No Deeper Hole.

Worst moments of the album: You’ll See the Sun.

Released in 2020 Black Sunset

Track listing
1. Symphony NO. 9 in D Minor, OP. 125: IV. Finale: Presto – Allegro Assai – Rezitativo – Allegro Assai (Intro) 0:19
2. Sniper’s Death 4:08
3. This Is the End 3:21
4. My Crush 4:12
5. A Test of Shadows 4:29
6. A Grave Called Home 5:07
7. (We Were) the Gods 4:11
8. Falling Shadows 4:06
9. You’ll See the Sun 4:29
10. No Deeper Hole 2:47
11. Stranded 5:18

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Carsten Sauter – guitars
Oskar Schmidt – guitars
Didi Schenk – bass
Suat Gören – drums

Guest musician
Aljoscha Crema – piano on “Stranded”

Metal Chick of the Month – Ela

ELA ROCKS!

Hailing from the charming Stuttgart, capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state and known for the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche headquarters and museums, our metal chick of the month of August is ready to set fire to The Headbanging Moose with her powerful vocals, stunning looks and deep passion for Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll, and Heavy and Power Metal. Furthermore, you’ll certainly find her evolution in music quite interesting, from her mellower, radio-friendly Pop Rock early days to her current ferocious beast mode, blasting first-class Heavy Metal for our absolute delectation, always ready to rock like there’s no tomorrow. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the raven-haired vocalist Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn, or if you prefer you can simply call her Ela, frontwoman for German Melodic Heavy Metal band ELA and a woman that beautifully represents the power and importance of women in contemporary metal music.

You won’t find a lot of personal details about our dauntless Ela on the internet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to read, learn and enjoy about her. Let’s say that if you want to know more about Ela, all you have to do is search for her own band ELA, as in the end the two can be considered the same entity. In other words, there’s no Michaela Eichhorn without ELA and vice-versa, which means we’ll be focusing on Ela’s career with her band on this humble tribute to this talented German singer, starting with the band’s inception over ten years ago, in the year of 2006. As a matter of fact, we can go a bit further than that, to the year of 2004, when Ela was part of a Karlsruh, Baden-Württemberg-based band named Com’n Rail, with whom she released the full-length album Out of My Universe that same year (and you can still buy the album from Amazon or from Discogs).

After several concerts all over Germany to promote Out of My Universe in the following years, Com’n Rail split up in 2006, with Ela finally founding what’s known today as ELA. However, as already mentioned, the band’s first releases, those being the EP’s Out of Time and Little Lies, both released in 2008, and the full-length albums Passion, from that same year, and Make My Day, from 2009, showed a much smoother side of Ela, offering her fans a fusion of classic Hard Rock with pop and alternative music. Ela’s debut EP Out of Time featured German musician J.R. Blackmore (the son of Ritchie Blackmore and his former German wife Margit, and known from bands like EBC Roxx and Over the Rainbow) on the guitar, with the invitation originating from Ela herself after listening to one of his instrumental pieces during a radio interview in Hamburg and falling in love with his refined technique. Upon returning home that night, she sent an email to Mr. Blackmore inviting him to participate in her album, he obviously accepted the invitation, and two weeks later the single Out Of Time was recorded (check out the official video shot at the legendary rock club Headbangers Ballroom in Hamburg HERE), with the full EP featuring the aforementioned single, a couple of original songs  by Ela and instrumental pieces by Mr. Blackmore, and a cover version for UFO’s Queen of the Deep. As a consequence of the very positive feedback received from fans and the specialized media, the duo went on a fairly extensive European tour after the release of the EP, not to mention the official video was played on many German music channels such as iMusic1 TV, Hit24, Deluxe TV and Streetclip.Tv.

The year of 2008 also witnessed the release of her first full-length album Passion, which you can listen in full on YouTube, again drawing excellent feedback and very positive reviews from the media. This was Ela’s first cooperation with Martin Engler of Mono Inc., which also happened in her next album. Songs like After the Rain and Out of Time achieved great success among fans of her music, the first single Little Lies made it onto several radio playlists for several weeks, her cover versions for Credence Clearwater Revival’s Who’ll Stop the Rain and Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me were simply amazing, and Bleed got its own official video, shot at a castle for Ela’s own delight. “I’m a huge fan of castles, and it was my utmost wish to film on the historic grounds of a fortress. Just the masonry is ever so fascinating, and for a song like ‘Bleed’ I couldn’t have imagined any other location”, said our talented frontwoman.

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In 2009 Ela was back in action with a more rockin’ sonority with the album Make My Day, featuring re-recorded songs form her previous releases, and new songs like Here to Stay, Who (Won’t You Tell Me) and Right for the Devil, and once again featuring Martin Engler on drums, percussion, keyboards, programming and other arrangements. Ela had a few nice words to say about this heavier and harder version of her music. “The atmosphere in a studio is different to the one on stage, where you’re being swept away by the energy of your fans. Before you pick a song for an album, you work for weeks on that tune until it is to your perfect liking. However, and I think I speak for many of my musician colleagues here, after a while you may dislike this song and/or you suddenly get new ideas for it. Music has a lot to do with emotions, so I think that your own feelings play a major role here. When you know that you’re due to play live shows, it gets you in a different mood, you feel changed. I can only speak for myself, but I felt an overpowering urge to bring these songs across way harder – well, I guess, I simply wanted to ROCK more,” she commented, already pointing to a heavier future for her band.

Although Ela might not have released any new material under her own band until 2015, in 2010 she founded together with J.R. Blackmore and keyboardist Tony Carey (Rainbow) the project EBC Roxx,  having released the album Winners Vol.1 that same year,  with the song Silver Arrows being the anthem to accompany the first race of Mercedes Formula 1 pilots Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg that season. Then after a short hiatus Ela returned in 2015 with her band ELA showcasing a more visceral and metallic sound in Nervous Breakdown, featuring among several hard and heavy songs a medley of two of Slade’s biggest classics, Cum On Feel the Noize and Gudbuy T’Jane. Produced by Jörg Uken (Soundlodge Tonstudio) and mixed by Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Beyond the Black, Edguy), Nervous Breakdown led Ela and her bandmates to promote the album on a tour with the iconic band Bonfire, proving once again she was on the right path in heavy music.

In 2016 Ela and her henchmen got even more metal with the release of the EP Out Of This World, presenting a much harder sonority closer to the Symphonic Metal played by bands such as Nightwish and Lacuna Coil, as you can see in this live version of the song This Kaleidoscope from 2017. Then in 2017 ELA finally achieved its most metallic form with the release of the full-length opus Second Reality, featuring powerful songs like Deadly Sins, therefore explaining why the album stayed in the Top 20 of the German Rock and Metal Charts for weeks. Ela’s metal side received so much praise from fans, critics and media from all over the world her band even toured around Germany as a supporting act for the one and only Grave Digger, not to mention Ela’s guest vocals in 2019 in the title-track Facing the Demon, from the album Facing the Demon, by German Melodic Heavy Metal act Reternity. Having said all that, you might be asking yourself what’s next for Ela, right? Well, no one knows exactly what our dark-haired singer will bring to our avid ears in the future, but we can rest assured it’s definitely going to rock our world.

ELA’s Official Facebook page
ELA’s Official Instagram
ELA’s Official YouTube channel

Album Review – Reternity / Facing the Demon (2019)

An exciting display of Melodic Heavy Metal by four experienced musicians from the German scene, dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations.

Founded in the summer of 2018 in Heilbronn, a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, by Stefan Zörner (SpiteFuel, Lanfear, Strangelet) on vocals, Carsten Sauter (Mighty D., Pyroclasm) on guitars and bass, Semen Brik (Echo.Mensch) also on the guitar, and Sascha Beul (Remember Twilight, Darkness Ablaze) on drums, four experienced and skillful musicians from the German Heavy Metal and Hard Rock scene, Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Reternity has just released their debut full-length album, entitled Facing the Demon, following up the successful release of their 2018 two-track demo, which received an amazing feedback from both fans and critics. Dealing with the struggles we all have with our inner demons and temptations, something that’s beautifully depicted in the album artwork, Facing the Demon was carefully produced by Jonas Kümmerle at Analog Mixing Studio, taking the album’s overall sound quality to a whole new level and, therefore, allowing those Swabian metallers to shine throughout 40 minutes of heavy music, ranging from classic Hard Rock to more berserk styles such as our good old Thrash Metal.

The acoustic guitars by Carsten and Semen kick off the intro Strings of Sor 1: Sunset, working as the calm before the storm for Last Days of War, a frantic and very melodic Heavy Metal tune with thrashing elements, as if Anthrax decided to play a faster version of Hard Rock. Moreover, Stefan leads his metal brigade with his ass-kicking, angry vocals, keeping the energy level really high until the next song, titled Tomorrow’s History, comes crushing our minds with another incendiary performance by the band’s guitar duo while Carsten keeps rumbling the foundations of the earth with his bass lines, also bringing some soulful guitar solos just the way we like it in Power Metal. Then the spoken words by Stefan in the melodic bridge Reternity II set the tone for the amazing Hard Rock power ballad I Love the Night, highly inspired by 80’s Glam Metal but with the band’s own modern twist. As the sound of guitars and bass fills every empty space in the air, get ready to sing the song’s awesome chorus alongside those German metallers in great fashion.

In Down. Not. Broken, one of the songs from their 2018 demo and another potent tune infused with Thrash Metal nuances, it’s time for Sascha to pound his drums mercilessly, therefore adding tons of electricity and stamina to the musicality, with Carsten and Semen once again kicking us in the face with their riffs and solos. The title-track Facing the Demon is a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal, with Stefan and guest vocalist Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn (frontwoman for German Melodic Heavy Metal band E:L:A) being on fire and utterly flawless on vocals, while the guitars and bass sound absolutely metallic from start to finish for our total delight; whereas in Singularity all instruments, in special the bass lines, present a lot of Progressive Metal nuances, sounding more modernized than the rest of the album, albeit not as vibrant. Furthermore, Stefan does a great job on vocals as usual, with the song’s acoustic ending also being a nice addition to the overall result.

The second song from their 2018 demo, Suicide Butterflies, is a very rhythmic and solid creation by Reternity, showcasing an electrified Sascha on drums while Carsten brings considerable amounts of progressiveness and groove with his riffs and bass punches; followed by Stone to Mouth, featuring German singer Chantal Freier doing a gorgeous introduction to the song in her mother tongue. Overall, it sounds like a fusion of the music by Skid Row, Gojira and Anthrax with alternative music from the 90’s, with all the shredding plus the German words being welcome extra touches to such vibrant composition. And last but not least, Carsten and Semen fire acoustic guitar lines one last time in the outro Strings of Sor 2: Sundown, closing the album on a serene note; however, keep listening to it for the hidden track All Grey, a fun and frantic Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll party with highlights to Stefan’s vocal performance boosted by the song’s effective backing vocals.

You can show your support to those skillful and unrelenting Teutonic metallers by following them on Facebook, and of course by purchasing your copy of Facing the Demon (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the MDD Records webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. Because, you know, if you’ve decided you’re finally going to face your inner demons from now on, keeping your head high and without any fear of failure, the best way to do that is accompanied by our good old Heavy Metal, no doubt about that.

Best moments of the album: Last Days of War, I Love the Night and Facing the Demon.

Worst moments of the album: Singularity.

Released in 2019 MDD Records

Track listing
1. Strings of Sor 1: Sunset (Intro) 1:05
2. Last Days of War 4:22
3. Tomorrow’s History 3:50
4. Reternity II 0:54
5. I Love the Night 2:55
6. Down. Not. Broken 3:32
7. Facing the Demon (feat. Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn) 4:31
8. Singularity 5:34
9. Suicide Butterflies 4:18
10. Stone to Mouth (feat. Chantal Freier) 4:47
11. Strings of Sor 2: Sundown (Outro) 1:12
12. All Grey (Hidden track) 2:39

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Carsten Sauter – guitars, bass
Semen Brik – guitars
Sascha Beul – drums

Guest musicians
Chantal Freier – female vocals (intro) on “Stone to Mouth”
Michaela “Ela” Eichhorn – female vocals on “Facing the Demon”