Let’s all head into the battlefield together with this must-see international Epic Heavy/Doom Metal horde armed with their breathtaking sophomore album.
Playing Epic Heavy/Doom Metal in the tradition of Tales of Medusa, Solitude Aeternus, Manilla Road, early Blind Guardian and Fates Warning, the multinational Smoulder have just unleashed their second full-length opus, titled Violent Creed of Vengeance, the follow-up to their 2019 critically acclaimed debut Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring and their 2020 EP Dream Quest Ends. Recorded at Soundwell Studio by Valtteri Kallio and Jani Snellmain, mixed by Arthur Rizk, mastered by Roland Rodas at Cavern of Echoes, and displaying a beautiful cover Art by Michael Whelan, the album represents a huge step forward in the career of vocalist Sarah Ann, guitarists Shon Vincent and Collin Wolf, bassist Adam Blake and drummer Kevin Hester, featuring seven front-to-back bangers that will surely please all fans of the genre and, therefore, inviting us all to head into the battlefield together with such talented Canadian-American-Finnish metal horde.
Shon and Collin waste no time and begin their epic stringed attack in the opening tune Violent Creed of Vengeance, a battle hymn perfect for raising our horns high in the sky, not to mention the soaring vocals by Sarah add an extra touch of electricity to their music; and it’s then pedal to the metal as it’s time to head into the battlefield to the sound of The Talisman and the Blade, a lesson in Power Metal inspired by that addictive sound form the 80’s, with Kevin being fantastic behind his drums while Adam blasts his bass in the best NWOBHM style. The melodious guitar lines by Shon and Collin permeate the air in Midnight in the Mirror World, where their Doom Metal vein pulses harder than ever. Furthermore, it’s indeed a dark and sinister tune that exhales epicness through its lyrics (“Tenebrous figure / Dwelling deep, within the infinite gates / A foreboding wind blows / With the first stars / He wakes, signaling personal dawn / Gaze across pale nebulas”).
The band then offers a thrilling fusion of the music by Warlock, Iron Maiden and Manowar entitled Path of Witchery, with Sarah kicking some ass on vocals as usual while Kevin sounds bestial behind his drums; whereas the somber narration by English writer Michael Moorcock kicks off another metallic extravaganza entitled Victims of Fate, offering our ears striking riffs and solos, rumbling bass lines and of course the band’s undisputed energy. After such imposing tune, we have a Heavy and Speed Metal attack titled Spellforger, showcasing more of their classy lyrics beautifully declaimed by Sarah (“This impoverished child, distinct from the rest / Their mind contains untold fortitude / Ancient coven sensed their presence / Trained their young as a Spellforger”), and you better get ready for almost ten minutes of epic and doomed Heavy Metal in the form of Dragonslayer’s Doom, with Sarah leading her horde while Adam’s bass lines bring endless intricacy to the overall result. Needless to say, that beautiful epicness goes on until the song’s climatic finale, putting a powerful ending to the album.
You can join Smoulder in their epic quest for heavy music by streaming their fantastic new album Violent Creed of Vengeance in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course by purchasing a copy of it from the band’s own BandCamp page, or from the Cruz Del Sur Music webstore as a CD, a red vinyl, a beer vinyl, or a cassette, and don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about those Finland-based Canadian metal warriors. Smoulder are definitely growing in a very healthy and exciting manner in the world of heavy music, therefore becoming one of the must-see bands of the current metal scene, and the electricity flowing from Violent Creed of Vengeance will undoubtedly help them to reach new heights and keep carrying the flag of Heavy Metal wherever they go armed with their music.
Best moments of the album:The Talisman and the Blade, Path of Witchery and Spellforger.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Cruz Del Sur Music
Track listing 1. Violent Creed of Vengeance 5:05
2. The Talisman and the Blade 4:47
3. Midnight in the Mirror World 6:55
4. Path of Witchery 4:26
5. Victims of Fate 7:41
6. Spellforger 3:31
7. Dragonslayer’s Doom 9:51
Sarah Ann – vocals
Shon Vincent – guitar
Collin Wolf – guitar
Adam Blake – bass
Kevin Hester – drums
Guest musician Michael Moorcock – narration on “Victims of Fate”
This amazing Melodic Heavy Metal outfit from Finland is back with their third full-length album, showcasing a healthy and exciting evolution in their sound.
Founded in 2013 by bassist Jesse “Kämy” Kämäräinen, Tampere, Finland-based female-fronted Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Crimson Day combines classic Heavy Metal riffs with modern elements, having already performed almost a hundred shows in Finland and abroad since their inception. Now in 2023 the band formed of the aforementioned Jesse Kämäräinen alongside Milka Uusitalo on vocals, Ari Balzar and Janne Rantanen on the guitars, and Juhani Ikonen on drums will attack your senses with their self-titled third full-length opus, following up on their 2018 album At the Mountains of Madness. Not only this is their first album with the stunning Milka on vocals, but it also showcases a healthy change or evolution in their sound, placing them among the best new names of the Finnish (and of the entire Nordic) scene, and being highly recommended for admirers of the music by both Iron Maiden and Within Temptation, Judas Priest and Epica, or Stratovarius and Nightwish, just to illustrate to you how dynamic their music is.
Juhani wastes no time and begins pounding his drums in Release The Beast, while Ari and Janne’s guitars exhale fire, all of course spiced up by the rockin’ vocals by Milka in a lecture in Heavy and Power Metal to kick things off in style. Then their guitar duo is on total fire in The Calling, providing Milka with exactly what she needs to shine with her soaring vocals. Put differently, it can’t get any more metal than this, whereas the song that carries the name of the band, Crimson Day, exhales epicness thanks to its galloping pace, gripping vocal lines and classic riffage, being therefore perfect for raising our horns high in the air. Juhani keeps pounding his drums supported by the thunderous bass by Jesse in The Mortal Undead, with the band investing in darker and heavier sounds (and the final result is a true banger); and it’s time to slow things down a bit with the power ballad Deep To The Dark, showcasing beautiful guitar riffs and solos by Ari and Janne.
Perhaps the song Night To Forget can be called “Dancing Heavy Metal” due to its rockin’ rhythm and vibe, with Milka exploring her vocal range in Hard Rock lands, whereas the metallic bass by Jesse ignites the band’s melodic feast titled Raising The Fury, with the piercing sound of their guitars bringing an overdose of electricity to the overall result. Black As Heavens Above sounds and feels more melodious than its predecessors, also presenting hints of 80’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal while Milka once again steals the show with her passionate vocals; followed by Eternal Night Of The Mind, the second to last song of the album, a solid display of modern-day Heavy Metal that sounds a bit cheesy compared to the rest of the album, albeit still very detailed and enjoyable. And last but not least, let’s bang our heads one final time with Crimson Day in Epilogue / Time To Die, with Ari, Janne and Jesse delivering a scorching stringed attack, putting an epic ending to an epic album, I might say.
Such intense album of classy Heavy Metal made in Finland can be fully appreciated on Spotify, and you can also purchase your favorite copy of it by clicking HERE. Don’t forget to also give Crimson Day a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, staying updated with all of their news and tour dates, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their music and videos. As already mentioned, the band has reached new heights in their career with their new album, with the evolution in their music certainly going to take them places, and with the vocals by Milka positioning the band as one of the strongest name of the genre in their homeland.
Best moments of the album:Release The Beast, The Mortal Undead and Black As Heavens Above.
Worst moments of the album:Eternal Night Of The Mind.
Released in 2023 Independent
Track listing 1. Release The Beast 3:57
2. The Calling 5:22
3. Crimson Day 5:09
4. The Mortal Undead 3:16
5. Deep To The Dark 5:25
6. Night To Forget 3:43
7. Raising The Fury 4:03
8. Black As Heavens Above 4:33
9. Eternal Night Of The Mind 4:23
10. Epilogue / Time To Die 5:06
Band members Milka Uusitalo – vocals
Ari Balzar – guitars
Janne Rantanen – guitars
Jesse Kämäräinen – bass
Juhani Ikonen – drums
Forged in this world… Chained to this earth… Forced to stay where I am… Evermore…
If you’re an admirer of the darkest forms of music and arts in general, I’m beyond certain you’ll have an absolute blast knowing more about our multi-talented metal lady of the month of May here on The Headbanging Moose. Not only she owns a powerful and beautiful voice, but she’s also a keyboardist, a songwriter, and an accomplished digital artist and graphic designer who has already worked with countless bands from the metal scene. I’m talking about Gogo Melone, the lead singer and composer for Aeonian Sorrow and Elyzia, and former vocalist for Luna Obscura, with guest appearances to bands such as ISON, Mercury Circle, IANAI, Ghostheart Nebula, As The Sun Falls and others, and having worked as a graphic designer for bands such as Xandria, Insomnium, Wolfheart, Omnium Gatherum and Vintersea, just to name a few. As you can see, Gogo Melone is an unstoppable force in heavy music, embellishing the airwaves with her voice while at the same time captivating our attention with her stunning graphic creations.
Born on July 17, 1985 in Ioannina (often called Yannena), the capital and largest city of the Ioannina regional unit and of Epirus, a region in north-western Greece, but currently residing in Helsinki, Finland, Gogo Melone began her career in music back in 2000 when she founded Greek Atmospheric/Melodic Death/Gothic Metal band Luna Obscura (Latin for “dark moon”) together with guitarist Dimitris Papachristos and vocalist Aris Potonos, inspired by the music by Draconian, Trail of Tears, Tristania, Theatre of Tragedy, Crematory, Paradise Lost, and all other bands with death and gothic elements. Gogo Melone mentioned in one of her interviews that there wasn’t any major plan to create Luna Obscura in the beginning, as it was just a musical experimentation, saying that she simply joined the band during the recordings of their demo Darcanda (released only in 2004). “The idea to have male and female vocals came easily, I guess that we all loved this combination at that time and somehow we felt it was the right direction for our music,” commented our diva, describing their sound as having atmospheric, death and gothic elements with harsh male and clean female vocals. “Our lyrics talk about death, human psychology and our transitions, the mystery, the unknown. All in combination with the music and the beautiful alternations of brutal and ethereal female vocals, create a melancholic yet strong-aggressive effect.”
Although the band was put on hold back in 2017 and has been dormant since then, and with Gogo Melone no longer being part of the band, there’s a lot to enjoy from their past releases, including the aforementioned demo Darcanda (as “Gwgw Melone”), their 2007 EP Evilyn, and their 2008 full-length opus Feltia, and you can enjoy several videos of the band on their official YouTube channel including Oronar, The Burden Of Solitude, and a live version of Dance of Forsaken Souls. Moreover, when asked about the importance of the visual part of the live performances by Luna Obscura, Gogo Melone said that all they cared about was delivering an emotional show to the crowd, focusing not only on the music, but also on the atmosphere surrounding it, as that was what their music was all about.
Fast forward to 2021, and there she is, the unrelenting Gogo Melone, starting another amazing band named Elysia (now spelled Elyzia), playing a stunning fusion of classic Black Metal and Experimental/Atmospheric Black Metal with nuances of Gothic and Doom Metal. She’s also the vocalist and keyboardist of the project, alongside vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer Jani Berney (of bands like As the Sun Falls, Tenebrae Aeternum and Chotzä, and who’s by the way engaged to Gogo Melone), having released their debut effort, the five-track EP Numinous, in August 2022. There’s an official video for the title-track Numinous, as well as official streams of the songs Veiled Fear and Onism on YouTube, and you can also find the full EP available for streaming on Spotify. Moreover, you can find more details about the band on Instagram, and purchase their music via BandCamp. Regarding the name change, switching the letter S for Z, the duo posted a short and sweet message on their Instagram explaining everything. “Some disrespectful idiots coming from the deathcore scene are spamming our social media with threats and hate because there is an old band using the name Elysia. Considering the fact that this other band has been inactive since 2008 and ever since they had no new releases or shows, it is a joke and a bit boring to have to read bullshit about a name when there are so many other names that have been used already three and five times. But let’s end this in a positive note. We are currently working on a new single and a new album which we plan to release in the next few months.”
You can also find Gogo Melone as a guest vocalist or keyboardist to several amazing underground bands, metal or non-metal, by the way. “So far I have met so many great musicians and bands and have done amazing collaborations worldwide so I guess the thing that counts the least is the genre of music. Although I would like to experiment more in Gothic Metal, Doom and Death Metal but the most important is to keep making good collaborations and gain more experience,” said our diva, who not only could be seen singing live with Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band Clouds back in 2018, but she also recorded vocals for the songs In This Empty Room, from their 2017 EP Destin, When I’m Gone, from their 2018 album Dor, and an acoustic version of that same song, from their 2020 compilation Clouds Acoustic; the re-recorded version of Suffer in Darkness, released as a single in 2022 by Finnish Symphonic Death/Doom Metal band Depressed Mode; Underworld, from the 2005 EP Skotos, by Greek Black/Death Metal act Empathy; Ascension Pt. I Cosmic River, from the 2021 album Ascension, by Italian Melodic Doom/Death Metal band Ghostheart Nebula; Scaling the Summit, from the 2023 EP Scaling the Summit, by Greek Symphonic/Melodic Death Metal band Neperia; a partnership with Greek Gothic Metal act Sorrowful Angels in the cover version for Moonspell’s classic Scorpion Flower, from their 2012 EP Reborn: A Tribute to Moonspell; A Light Year Breath, from the 2020 album Empire of the Void, by Italian Death/Doom Metal band Tethra; and Where the Sun Turns to Grey, from the 2021 album Echoes of Winter, by Italian Progressive Doom Metal band Veil of Conspiracy.
Other guest appearances include the songs Drink the Effect, from the 2008 self-titled EP by Greek Industrial Black Metal band Rheinkaos; Scary Place, from the 2014 self-titled album by Vita Nova; and Winter Is Coming, a solo single released in 2014 by Stream of Passion’s Eric Hazebroek. There’s also a solo album that Gogo Melone mentioned she started working in the beginning of 2012, which should be called Black Silent Vision (or something like that), and she even mentioned in one of her interviews that a digital single was almost ready to be released that year in the summer, but so far nothing has been released maybe due to all her responsibilities as a graphic designer, which undoubtedly consumes a lot of her time.
Speaking about her passion for arts in general and her work as a graphic designer and digital illustrator since 2007, Gogo Melone mentioned that her favorite styles are emotional, dark and surreal, nurturing a deep passion for red, black and white, as well as for digital art, photography, music and film. “I can’t be myself without freedom and creativity and with art you can have both at maximum. My work is a mixture of dark digital art and photography, highly influenced by films, dark and gothic fashion, fairytales, the beauty of fragile souls and dreamy places,” said our diva, who’s also worried about the future of album covers and booklets due to the vast majority of physical albums being replaced by their digital formats. She has already worked with countless bands in her career, being responsible for the artwork, design or layout of their albums, including for example the bands Xandria, Ablaze My Sorrow, Lutharo, Red Moon Architect, Stormbound, As the Sun Falls, Delusions of Reality, Eye of Solitude, Gallia, Mythodea, White Empress and Wolfheart, just to name a few, plus of course her own bands Aeonian Sorrow, Luna Obscura and Elyzia. Furthermore, inspired by her favorite types of music or bands, a good movie, a documentary, a walk in nature, her past memories, her fears and her dreams, Gogo Melone said in one of her interviews that it doesn’t matter the quality or technique behind an image if it captures the essence of the message that’s being sent. In addition, she also mentioned that although she can’t be considered a photographer, she finds it very inspiring to see the works of both classic and modern photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Philippe Halsman, Steve McCurry, Allan Amato, Tim Walker, Nicolas Guerin, Winter Kelly and Natalie Shau.
Regarding her idols and influences, she said that her introduction to the metal scene happened when she bought the Black Album by Metallica, leading her to take some basic non-professional vocal lessons, participating in her school choir, and starting to sing in different bands during her high school years. Among her favorite bands we’ll find some incredible names such as My Dying Bride, Theater of Tragedy, Katatonia, Anathema, Draconian, Novembers Doom, Daylight Dies, Trail of Tears, Swallow The Sun, Shape of Despair, Paradise Lost, Moonspell and many more, being a diehard fan of all things doom, gothic and death. She was also asked to list her top five albums of all time a few years ago, and if her taste hasn’t changed since then her list is formed of The Silent Enigma, by Anathema; The Angel And The Dark River, by My Dying Bride; Viva Emptiness, by Katatonia; Velvet Darkness They Fear, by Theater of Tragedy; and Arcane Rain Fell, by Draconian.
Although Gogo Melone might have never taken professional vocal lessons, she doesn’t encourage people to follow the same path. “Everything is better when you have technical knowledge and when you know how you can use your voice without destroying it,” she said, also mentioning that she warms up her voice with simple techniques and rest it for long periods. “I don’t smoke, I’m not a big alcohol drinker, I drink a lot of water, I work out a bit and I sleep well as much as possible. Thankfully I didn’t do any damage to my voice so far, but after some years, maybe many years, my voice will change anyway so I guess that a few professional lessons will help to maintain it.” She obviously loves to use her voice live, and being onstage is extremely important to her as a musician and as a person. For instance, her most memorable live performances happened during the European tour that Aeonian Sorrow did with Swallow The Sun and Oceans of Slumber in 2019, also saying that one of the best concerts she has ever witnessed was Anathema when they played in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2005.
When asked if she prefers focusing on her career or her family, as several female singers have already mentioned they would rather concentrate in their careers, Gogo Melone said she would never sacrifice her family for her career, saying that there’s no point in spending most of the time away from your family or having kids you won’t see growing up, complementing by saying that not having a family when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s might be fine, but definitely not when you turn 40 or 50. A member of Eve’s Apple, a community (that might not be active anymore) focused on uniting female metal and rock singers to share their experiences, get to know each other, chat about a variety of topics, and promote their music without any sort of competition, Gogo Melone believes that the metal scene is no longer a male-dominated space, with all female-fronted bands showing metalheads they are no different from men, deserving nothing but respect from the scene. Hence, when questioned about her favorite female singers of all time, she listed Vibeke Stene (Tristania), Liv Kristine (Theatre of Tragedy, Leaves Eyes), Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering), Lisa Johansson (Draconian) and Cathrine Paulsen (Trail of Tears) as her top ones, saying that list will never change for her.
Greece has always been an amazing source of metal music, but Gogo Melone believes the scene is even stronger now, with many bands having started to act more professionaly, therefore helping the local scene grow in a healthier way. “Of course the metal music industry has the normal ups and downs but people are always interested to discover new bands and artists,” she commented about the scene in Greece, also saying that due to having lost contact with her homeland in recent years she doesn’t follow a lot of Greek bands, apart of course form renowned acts such as Rotting Christ and Septicflesh, but that she knows all bands in Greece are putting a lot of effort into their music and they definitely need the support and attention from fans worldwide.
She also mentioned in one of her interviews that working as an independent artist is more in line with her goals, as she doesn’t like the standards such has “1 album every 2 years” or “you have to go live”, relying more on the online support she receives and on crowdfunding campaigns. “The internet and especially social networks are obviously the new way of bringing people together from all over the world. So, in regards to work and how you will promote it, I think it’s one of the best and most clever ways which can give you fast results. I like to use it very often, sometimes more than I should and even if it has helped me a lot…. I believe we must be very careful. It’s very easy to fool around instead of doing serious work, so be careful.” Well, we can all agree she’s been using the internet properly, as we’re all very lucky to be able to access her music and her art from anywhere in the world, bringing endless joy to our dark and gothic hearts.
“Music is an amazing way to express your emotions and have fun all the time when you don’t take things so seriously. I prefer to sing whenever I want to and enjoy it in a way that makes me feel something instead of making albums every year with amazing productions but without soul, which obviously no one will remember after.” – Gogo Melone
A young, rising Melodic Death/Thrash Metal band from Finland will kick you in the head to the sound of their new EP, sounding faster, heavier and more ferocious than ever.
A young, rising Melodic Death/Thrash Metal band formed in early 2021 in Espoo, Finland, the four-piece act known as The Last Prophecy has been connecting the best bits of Thrash Metal and Melodeath since their inception, crafting their own sound while also honoring their main influences including In Flames and Children Of Bodom. Now in 2023 the quartet formed of Joakim Haahtela on vocals and guitars, Petteri Karinen also on the guitars, Saku Kivirinne on bass, and Henri Toropainen on drums unleashed upon us a 25-minute EP titled Hate Is My Mentor, sounding faster, heavier and more ferocious than ever, with the mixing and mastering by the band’s own Petteri and Henri and the artwork by @dodolokstrom bringing an extra touch of insanity to the album, therefore positioning the band as one of the must-see new names of the current Finnish scene.
The guitars by Joakim and Petteri bring the noise to the opening tune Deranged, slashing our ears in great fashion in the name of Melodic Death Metal supported by the pounding drums by Henri; whereas Dead Forever is even groovier and heavier thanks to the rumbling kitchen blasted by Saku and Henri, or in other words, it’s an amazing option to slam into the pit while Joakim vociferates rabidly. Then drinking from the same fountain as Scandinavian giants the likes of Soilwork, In Flames and Arch Enemy (while also adding their own Death Metal twist to the overall result), we have Dark Sky of the Dawn, where another amazing guitar job by Joakim and Petteri keeps the song’s energy level truly high; followed by the title-track Hate Is My Mentor, which beings in a serene manner before evolving into another classy Melodic Death Metal feast, showcasing dark lyrics (“Restless soul in darkness / Waiting for salvation / World’s turning its back / Sing the song of death / While holding your breath / Aid is never here / It’s a one-way path / Light has passed away / This is the last day”) amidst a neck-breaking sonority. Finally, closing the EP the quartet offers us all Course of War, again delivering their usual incendiary riffage while Henri dictates the pace with his intricate and hammering drums.
Such fun and vibrant EP is available in its entirety on Youtube and on Spotify, and of course if you want to show the guys from The Last Prophecy how much you enjoy their music you can give them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase a copy of Hate Is My Mentor from Apple Music or by clicking HERE. The EP already gives the listener a very good idea of how exciting the music by The Last Prophecy is, and now those Finnish metallers have the mission of delivering an even bolder, faster and heavier full-length album in the near future. Well, I’m sure they’ll get there even if it’s hard to beat the quality of the songs from Hate Is My Mentor, don’t you agree?
Best moments of the album:Dead Forever and Dark Sky of the Dawn.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Independent
Track listing 1. Deranged 3:52
2. Dead Forever 5:56
3. Dark Sky of the Dawn 3:42
4. Hate Is My Mentor 6:13
5. Course of War 5:34
Joakim Haahtela – vocals, guitars
Petteri Karinen – guitars
Saku Kivirinne – bass
Henri Toropainen – drums
Prepare yourself for a breathtaking Symphonic Black Metal journey to the war-torn, magical and baroque world of Argenthorns.
A new and mysterious Symphonic Black Metal project from the land of a thousand lakes, more precisely from the Finnish city of Lahti, Argenthorns will take you on an epic cloak and dagger adventure in the project’s debut opus The Ravening, all taken from the mind of its sole member, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Juuso Peltola, the man behind Warmoon Lord and Old Sorcery who goes by the name of Mason Rofocale in this epic and baroque metal saga. Mastered by Gabriele Gramaglia (Cosmic Putrefaction, Vertebra Atlantis, and many more), and displaying a stylish, classic artwork by Swedish master Pär Olofsson, The Ravening marks the first chapter of Mason Rofocale’s occult chronicle through lands unknown, a Black Metal tale told the way it used to be in the 90’s with piercing screams, fascinating keyboards and icy cold riffs, recommended for fans of Dimmu Borgir, Bal-Sagoth, Odium and Limbonic Art.
The cinematic and phantasmagorical intro Hanen Salissaan Kastoimme Unenhoureet Vereen (“In Hane’s hall, we drenched the sleeping whores in blood” from Finnish) will captivate your senses before Juuso smashes our cranial skulls in The Manor of the Demon Duke, a pulverizing Symphonic Black Metal aria showcasing fast and electrifying riffs, menacing drums and Juuso’s infernal gnarls, resulting in a grandiose start to such compelling tale. Juuso wastes no time and continues to tell the album’s story in the most metallic way possible in In the Hoary Shadows of the Blighted Gardens, where all background keys, orchestrations and sounds provide him with the perfect atmosphere for his wicked Black Metal vociferations; whereas his old school Black Metal vein gets stronger in I: Incursion II: a Procession of Spectres, bringing forward his passion for the 80’s and 90’s sound while also adding his own twist to the music, ending in a doom-ish, sluggish manner.
Investing in a more orchestral, imposing sonority, Juuso will embellish the airwaves with his piercing guitar lines in Malefic Chronicle, enhancing the song’s punch and heaviness with his classy drums and whimsical keys; and in Wings of Psychomachia he adds elements from Atmospheric Black Metal and also from Doom Metal to his core sound, resulting in a song that exhales melancholy and introspection while also evolving into a Symphonic Black Metal voyage that will smash your mind mercilessly. Then epic keys ignite the second to last song of the album, titled The Grand Hallowing of the Tyrant, with Juuso declaiming the song’s words in a poetic way before gnarling and roaring like a demonic beast, feeling modern yet deeply rooted in classic Black Metal (not to mention his amazing riff work), flowing into the also cinematic outro Elpyminen (“recovery” from Finnish), putting a mesmerizing and climatic finale to Juuso’s blackened musical journey.
The multi-talented metal warrior Juuso, or maybe I should say Mason Rofocale, is eager to know what you think of his music on Facebook, and you can show him all your support by purchasing a copy of the intense and multi-layered The Ravening from his own BandCamp page, from the Avantgarde Music’s BandCamp page, from Sound Cave (as a CD, a vinyl, or a special galaxy vinyl), as well as from other sources such as mvdshop.com. Prepare yourself for a breathtaking journey to the war-torn, magical and baroque world of Argenthorns, but I must warn you that once you enter such metallic realm you might never come back.
Best moments of the album:The Manor of the Demon Duke, In the Hoary Shadows of the Blighted Gardens and The Grand Hallowing of the Tyrant.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Avantgarde Music
Track listing 1. Hanen Salissaan Kastoimme Unenhoureet Vereen 1:36
2. The Manor of the Demon Duke 3:55
3. In the Hoary Shadows of the Blighted Gardens 5:29
4. I: Incursion II: a Procession of Spectres 7:21
5. Malefic Chronicle 5:28
6. Wings of Psychomachia 7:02
7. The Grand Hallowing of the Tyrant 5:19
8. Elpyminen 2:17
Band members Juuso Peltola – vocals, all instruments
There’s nothing better than uniting two Nordic bands in Toronto (and we all know how Finland, Norway and Canada can get really, really cold) to celebrate the end of another freakin’ winter, and that’s exactly what hundreds of fans were able to witness at the always cozy The Opera House this Saturday when INSOMNIUM and ENSLAVED, with the support of BLACK ANVIL, kicked some serious ass with their very melodic, folk, and obviously heavy-as-hell music. The weather was good enough (for Canadian standards) for several people to only wear T-shirts, including myself, and I must say that was a wise decision as things started to get pretty warm inside the venue right after the doors opened. And on a side note, if you’re attending any concert at The Opera House or just visiting the neighborhood, a new Slayer Burger location (and I still think they should be called “SLAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEERRRRR Burger” for obvious reasons) opened on February 12 right beside the venue, offering a great option to fill up your personal tank before heading into any mosh pits.
It was 7:30pm when the opening act, New York, United States-based Black/Thrash Metal act BLACK ANVIL kicked off the night with their vicious music, with vocalist and bassist P.D. and drummer R.G. stealing the spotlight with another blasphemous performance, and I say “another” because I already had the pleasure of seeing them opening for the mighty Cannibal Corpse in November also here in Toronto. Still promoting their 2022 opus Regenesis, the quartet did a very solid job on stage, with their newest song NYC Nightmares being the highlight of their performance for me. Perhaps the only “issue” with their show was the fact that their music is considerably different from the main attractions, and at least I felt there was a lack of circle pits during their entire set. The fans still raised their horns for the band and clapped their hands in approval after each song was played, but as I said maybe the night was too eclectic for a band like Black Anvil.
Then after a quick break, more specifically at around 8:30pm, Finland’s own Melodic Death Metal institution INSOMNIUM hit the stage with a flawless performance, blending songs from all of their previous albums with the stunning creations form their brand new opus Anno 1696. Spearheaded by the iconic vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen, the band started their show with five superb songs in a row, those being 1696, White Christ, While We Sleep, Godforsaken and Lilian, embellishing the airwaves and putting the entire crowd in a metallic trance and showing how strong their newest album is. Insomnium have always been one of the pillars of Nordic Melodic Death Metal since their inception back in 1997, always releasing amazing albums, but it feels like they’ve perfect their sound even more with Anno 1696, and the reactions of the fans in Toronto to their new songs was the ultimate proof of that.
One thing I must say about Insomnium, in special when talking about their live performances, is how awesome their guitars are nowadays with Markus Vanhala (the heart and soul of another Finnish Melodic Death Metal beast, the excellent Omnium Gatherum) and Jani Liimatainen, who’s in a much better position these days compared to his time with Sonata Arctica or Altaria, sounding sharp, crisp and extremely melodious for the absolute delight of all fans who were at The Opera House. I have no idea why their third guitarist Ville Friman missed the show, and I’m sure it would have been even more amazing if he had played as well, but Markus and Jani nailed it from start to finish even without their bandmate. Another new song that sounded thrilling live was The Witch Hunter, again proving their latest release is a beast of an album, and closing their performance with the not-so-old song Heart Like a Grave was one more attestation those Finnish metallers are always moving forward in their career. It was my first time seeing Insomnium live despite being a fan of the band for a long time, and I’ll make sure I don’t miss any of their future shows in Toronto from now on after such pleasant night in the city.
While We Sleep
And Bells They Toll
The Witch Hunter
Heart Like a Grave
Band members Niilo Sevänen – lead vocals, bass
Markus Vanhala – guitars
Jani Liimatainen – guitars, clean vocals
Markus Hirvonen – drums
It was a little past 10pm when the main attraction of the night, Norway’s Progressive Black/Viking Metal horde ENSLAVED, took the city of Toronto by storm led by their charismatic vocalist and bassist Grutle Kjellson, putting a huge smile on the faces of everyone at The Opera House, and inspiring part of the crowd to head into the battlefield (aka mosh pits) for the delight of the band. The start of their performance with the songs Jettegryta and Homebound, from their 2020 album Utgard, plus the fact they played Kingdom, Forest Dweller and Heimdal, from their 2023 album Heimdal, therefore making for half of their setlist, also shows that Enslanved, just like Insomnium, are forward-thinking musicians who respect their past but are not trapped in it, and their diehard fans more than love that based on their reaction to their entire performance.
Enslaved were also one man down, as their guitarist Ivar Bjørnson was absent from the concert in Toronto (and from their entire North American tour “due to immediate family issues that needed to be taken care of” as per a statement from the band on their official Facebook page), but Grutle made sure Ivar received some positive vibes from us Torontonians who screamed his name when prompted by the band. Furthermore, their other guitarist Arve Isdal was on fire, shredding his guitar nonstop and filling all empty spaces left by Ivar, in special in the amazing tune Return to Yggdrasil. Add to that the intense, multi-layered background sounds by Håkon Vinje and Iver Sandøy, and there you have the perfect recipe for a fulminating Norwegian attack. When they closed the night with Allfǫðr Oðinn, everyone at The Opera House was beyond happy and mesmerized, and I’m sure that will inspired Enslaved to return to the city sooner than we can say any of the names of their songs in Norwegian. Ad of course, thanks a lot to Noel Peters from Inertia Entertainment for putting together such enjoyable night of first-class metal music, and thanks once again to my friend Keith Ibbitson of Lower Eastside Photography for the amazing shots! SKÅL!
Return to Yggdrasil
The Dead Stare
Band members Grutle Kjellson – vocals, bass
Arve Isdal – lead guitars
Håkon Vinje – keyboards, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums, clean vocals
A newborn Finnish creature is ready to darken the skies with their debut opus, inspired by early first and second wave Black Metal as well as more recent Atmospheric Black Metal.
Playing brutal yet hypnotic and hauntingly beautiful music straight from their woeful souls, Finnish Black Metal trio Monachopsis Art was formed in 2022 by members from such bands as The Abbey, Henget, Shape of Despair and Licht des Urteils, aiming at creating music that is organic and raw, but still powerful and feeling-evoking, which is exactly what you’ll find in the band’s debut opus, titled An Empty Existence. Mixed and mastered at Studio Beyond North Star by the band’s own guitarist, bassist and keyboardist J.H. (aka Jesse Heikkinen), the album is inspired by early first and second wave Black Metal bands such as Venom, Bathory and Burzum, but also more recent Atmospheric Black Metal acts such as ColdWorld and Lustre, while the lyrics revolve around war, suicide and the meaningless struggles of human life, all played with passion and hatred by the aforementioned J.H. together with N.K. (aka Natalie Koskinen) on vocals, and A.K. (aka Antti Kaislaranta) on drums.
Atmospheric and sinister from the very first second, the intro Thee Darkness Gathers… will darken the skies before the trio comes hammering our hearts with Seeds, a solid fusion of old school, raw Black Metal with more contemporary sounds and nuances led by the venomous gnarls by the she-demon N.K., whereas Silent Torture presents a hypnotizing rhythm led by the Doom Metal beats by A.K. while J.H. adds his share of horror to the music with his somber keys and sharp riffage. Following such powerful tune, the band brings forth River of Blood, offering us all devilish lyrics grasped by N.K. (“Hear the sound / Of the burning wood / Feel the power of / Pure disgust / See how the light (is) fading away / Watch how flesh…buried under the tone”) amidst a dense and Stygian sonority.
Then featuring guest vocals by the demonic Spellgoth (Horna, Trollheims Grott), who makes a phantasmagorical duet with N.K., we have A Dark Place, with J.H. extracting pure evil from his guitar and keys; followed by Stargazer, once again bringing to our avid ears a grim hybrid of Black and Doom Metal while A.K. dictates the song’s lugubrious pace and N.K.’s witch-like vociferations and introspective clean vocals permeate the air beautifully. J.H.’s keys continue to give their music a theatrical vibe in Flesh Will Be Humiliated, while their core Black Metal sound is perfect for summoning all creatures from the underworld; and the trio continues to walk straight into darkness in No Desire to Live, with J.H. and A.K. making a sinister duo and, therefore, making our heads tremble with their devilish sonic weapons. Finally, we face Flame of Night, which is not a bad song but the keys sound a bit excessive during its entirety, taking away a bit of its heaviness. N.K. is awesome on vocals as usual, though.
The name of the band couldn’t have been more appropriate than Monachopsis Art, as “monachopsis” is defined as the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, plus the word “art” to depict how the band members see their creations as a different form of art that doesn’t follow the rules of the existing music scene, all carefully brought into being in An Empty Existence. Hence, go check what such promising trio is up to on Facebook and on Instagram, and above that, go grab your copy of their idiosyncratic debut album from the Nordvis webstore or by clicking HERE, and you can also find all things Monachopsis Art by following this link. The music by Monachopsis Art is evil, atmospheric, delicate and captivating, turning An Empty Existence into the perfect soundtrack for one of those dark days with no end in sight.
Best moments of the album:Silent Torture, A Dark Place and Stargazer.
Worst moments of the album:Flame of Night.
Released in 2023 Forgotten Friends/Silent Future Recordings
Track listing 1. Thee Darkness Gathers… 2:05
2. Seeds 3:50
3. Silent Torture 4:02
4. River of Blood 5:00
5. A Dark Place 3:06
6. Stargazer 3:34
7. Flesh Will Be Humiliated 2:55
8. No Desire to Live 3:30
9. Flame of Night 4:25
N.K. – vocals
J.H. – guitars, bass, keyboards
A.K. – drums
Guest musician Spellgoth – vocals on “A Dark Place”
Finland’s masters of Melodic Death Metal return with a bold and sinister new album, taking us back into the dark times of the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe.
Based on a short story by Niilo Sevänen (just like their 2016 album Winter’s Gate), Anno 1696, the ninth studio album by Finnish Melodic Death Metal institution Insomnium, takes the listeners back into the dark times of the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe, famine and superstition. Mixed by Jaime Gomez Arellano at Arda Recorders, mastered by Tony Lindgren at Fascination Street Recording Studios, displaying a classy artwork by Sami Makkonen, and featuring guest keyboards by Coen Janssen (Epica, Amahiru), the follow-up to their 2019 effort Heart like a Grave doesn’t disappoint at all, proving why this Joensuu, Pohjois-Karjala-based unity currently comprised of vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen, guitarists Ville Friman, Markus Vanhala and Jani Liimatainen, and drummer Markus Hirvonen has become one of the pillars of the genre in the entire Scandinavia, delivering first-class Melodic Death Metal album after album for our total delight.
Acoustic guitars and tribal beats ignite the opening tune 1696, being gradually joined by several other elements and evolving into a demolishing feast of their trademark Melodic Death Metal, with Niilo’s growls matching perfectly with their melodious guitar lines; followed by White Christ, presenting strong, classic lyrics flawlessly declaimed by the iconic Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ together with Niilo (“In the name of our Saviour and Lord / In the name of our Monarch and the Crown / I’ve come to bring the law and justice to this land / I’ve come to bring the light and grace of the Christ”) in a lecture in Melodic Black and Death Metal. Then we have Godforsaken, featuring Johanna Kurkela (Altamullan Road, Auri, Eye of Melian) on vocals, adding a touch of finesse and melancholy to the overall result, accompanied by the massive beats by Markus Hirvonen and the piercing riffs by the band’s guitar triumvirate, flowing into the pure Insomnium tune Lilian, where a serene, delicate intro once again explodes into their unparalleled sound, showcasing an amazing job done by Ville, Markus Vanhala and Jani with their axes and, therefore, inviting us to headbang in pitch black darkness.
More of their poetic, bitterly cold lyrics is offered to us all in Starless Paths (“Cruel is the winter’s might / Dreadful the howl of wind / Beyond the pathless treks we roam / Where the church bells never toll”) while the music sounds extremely harmonious and dense from start to finish, and the band continues to distill their stylish Melodic Death Metal in The Witch Hunter, spearheaded by the classic beats by Markus Hirvonen while keeping the album as vibrant as it can be. The shortest of all tracks, titled The Unrest, begins in a similar acoustic way as the opening tune while Niilo darkly declaims the song’s words together with the clean vocals by Ville and Jani, and albeit being a good song it lacks the same energy from the others. Finally we’re treated to The Rapids, bringing forward a superb fusion of violence, melancholy, harmony and darkness by Insomnium, offering our avid ears almost eight minutes of their undisputed music. Moreover, Niilo roars deeply while his bandmates make sure the music remains imposing until the very last second, with their guitar solos piercing our souls majestically.
Perhaps the best way to fully understand everything Insomnium wanted to accomplish with Anno 1696 would be by watching this track by track video, and before or after you do so you can stream the album in its entirety on Youtube and on Spotify, being therefore properly immersed in the sinister world crafted by such important band from the Finnish scene. Also, don’t forget to start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and above all that, to purchase the excellent Anno 1696 by clicking HERE or HERE. As already mentioned, the album is all about the witch prosecutions in Northern Europe, and there’s nothing better than the Stygian and melancholic music by Insomnium to guide us all through such dark and horrifying times.
Best moments of the album:White Christ, Lilian and The Rapids.
Worst moments of the album:The Unrest.
Released in 2023 Century Media
Track listing 1. 1696 6:18
2. White Christ 6:03
3. Godforsaken 8:35
4. Lilian 4:29
5. Starless Paths 7:48
6. The Witch Hunter 5:43
7. The Unrest 3:52
8. The Rapids 7:38
Japanese Edition Disc 2 – Songs of the Dusk 9. Flowers of the Night 5:28
10. Stained in Red 6:50
11. Song of the Dusk 9:43
Niilo Sevänen – lead vocals, bass
Ville Friman – guitars, clean vocals
Markus Vanhala – guitars
Jani Liimatainen – guitars, clean vocals
Markus Hirvonen – drums
Guest musicians Sakis Tolis – vocals on “White Christ”
Johanna Kurkela – vocals on “Godforsaken”
Coen Janssen – keyboards
This Finnish five-piece metal act is ready to attack with their new EP, a representation of the way a happy life usually starts to sadden towards the end due to the inevitability of death.
Formed back in 2017 in the city of Valkeakoski, Finland, the five-piece killer combo known as Bloody Falls combines all kind of elements of the most extreme metal genres, including blasting drums, epic passages and memorable guitar riffs that will make your head explode in a million pieces, while having their sound rooted in contemporary Melodic Black and Death Metal. Now in 2023 the band formed of Antero Hakala on vocals, Stavros Mathios and Marko Mäkinen on the guitars, Mika Lehtinen on bass and Rami Vartiainen on drums is unleashing upon humanity their new EP entitled Dying is Easy, following up on their 2021 album Burn the Witch. Recording and produced by the band’s own guitarist Stavros Mathios at VStudio, and mixed and mastered by Max Morton at Morton Studio, the EP is a representation of the way a happy life usually starts to sadden towards the end due to the inevitability of death, all introduced by heavy riffs and guttural vocals.
Are you scared to die, or are you scared to live? Well, Bloody Falls will answer that question to you in Dying is Easy, a brutal explosion of Black, Death and Groove Metal led by the venomous roars by Antero while Stravos and Marko darken the atmosphere with their devilish riffs. Then get ready for six minutes of sheer heaviness and obscurity in the modern-day Black and Death Metal feast titled Dancing with Flames, with Mika’s rumbling bass and Rami’s hammering drums inspiring us all to break our necks headbanging like crazy bastards; whereas Face Your Demise leans towards modern-day Melodic Death Metal with some Metalcore nuances, with Antero’s vocals sounding as evil as possible accompanied by the classic and melodic guitars by Stravos and Marko. It’s time for a headbanging, visceral Melodic Death Metal tune entitled Death By Hanging, with Rami stealing the spotlight with his massive beats while Antero keeps roaring like a beast, and their last blast of extreme music comes in the form of Reaper Is My Neighbor, where the bass jabs by Mika will hit you hard in the face while the band’s guitar duo keeps slashing their stringed weapons in great fashion.
Although it would have been nicer to have a full-length album released by the band instead of just an EP, the 25 minutes of music found in Dying is Easy are already incendiary enough to prove how talented and passionate for heavy music those Finnish metallers are, and if you want to show them your support you can find them and start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, stream more of their music on Spotify, and grab a copy of their new EP from the Art Gates Records webstore, from Apple Music, or by clicking HERE. As death is inevitable, why not enjoy some good heavy music during our miserable lives like what Bloody Falls have to offer us all until our very last breath?
Best moments of the album:Dancing with Flames and Death By Hanging.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Art Gates Records
1. Dying is Easy 5:13
2. Dancing with Flames 5:46
3. Face Your Demise 4:22
4. Death By Hanging 4:10
5. Reaper Is My Neighbor 4:39
Antero Hakala – vocals
Stavros Mathios – guitars
Marko Mäkinen – guitars
Mika Lehtinen – bass
Rami Vartiainen – drums
A monumental celebration of the great Lord of Death in the form of dark and sinister 90’s Black Metal made in Scandinavia.
The Stygian project of Swedish vocalist Niklas Kvarforth (Shining), Norwegian guitarist Cernunnus (Manes), Finnish bassist Kalmos (Barathrum), and Finnish drummer Rainer Tuominkanto (Ajattara), Scandinavian Black Metal entity Høstsol, which by the way means “autumn sun” from Swedish, has just unleashed upon humanity their debut opus, entitled Länge Leve Döden, or “long live death”, an album conceived and recorded by people who have been molding the sounds of all things dark since the 90’s, and you can hear that experience and unconditional dedication in every note. Mastered by the legendary Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) at Sonic Train Studios, Länge Leve Döden is, according to the band itself, “our monumental celebration of the great Lord of Death. A perfect alignment of five songs that were written during an awful, unhealthy process over the course of two years. Expect Black Metal the way it used to feel and sound back in the early nineties, and rejoice!”
An eerie intro slowly evolves into the grim and dark As Seen Through The Eyes Of The Prophet, showcasing pensive lyrics (“A human life is worth less than nothing / So therefore I dream, night after night, / Dreams of putting an end to all materialistic desires, / And annihilate the despicable cosmic failures of the false prophet Jahve, / And through faith and fanatic devotion, crown the one true king”) and a beautiful Atmospheric Black Metal sound. Rainer sounds inhumane on drums, bringing endless heaviness to Det Som En Gång Var (Det Kommer Aldrig Igen), or “what once was (it will never be again)”, while Niklas vociferates beastly for our total delight during the song’s eight minutes of pure obscurity; followed by Länge Leve Den Ansiktslöse Mördaren, or “long live the faceless killer”, absolutely sinister from the very first second spearheaded by the vicious growls by Niklas and the always hammering beats by Rainer, not to mention the sulfurous riffs by Cernunnus. Then Gregorian chants ignite ten minutes of sheer Black Metal magic entitled Din Skördetid Är Nu Kommen, or “your harvest time has now come”, where Cernunnus is unstoppable with his classic riffage supported by the rumbling bass by Kalmos, sounding infernal and majestic from start to finish. And closing the album the quartet offers us all their hellish Black Metal with hints of Atmospheric Black and Doom Metal in Parallellt Dubbelliv, or “parallel double life”, displaying a menacing ambience perfect for the demonic gnarls by Niklas.
Best moments of the album:Länge Leve Den Ansiktslöse Mördaren and Din Skördetid Är Nu Kommen.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2023 Avantgarde Music
Track listing 1. As Seen Through The Eyes Of The Prophet 9:31
2. Det Som En Gång Var (Det Kommer Aldrig Igen) 8:14
3. Länge Leve Den Ansiktslöse Mördaren 10:29
4. Din Skördetid Är Nu Kommen 8:44
5. Parallellt Dubbelliv 7:32
Niklas Kvarforth – vocals
Cernunnus – guitars
Kalmos – bass
Rainer Tuomikanto – drums