Album Review – Malacoda / The Strain EP (2021)

Inspired by the works of Guillermo Del Toro, this Canadian entity is unleashing upon us all their second EP of the year, delving even further into their horror inspired roots.

3.0rating

malacoda-the-strain-ep-2021After the releases of their debut self-titled album in 2015, the EP Ritualis Aeterna in 2016, the full-length opus Restless Dreams in 2018, and the EP Crawling Chaos earlier this year, Oakville, Canada-based metal band Malacoda continues to deliver their fusion of Gothic, Power, Symphonic, Melodic and Progressive Metal for our total delight with their second EP of the year, entitled The Strain. Recorded, mixed and mastered by the band’s own founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lucas Di Mascio at Old Haunt Recording Studio,  and displaying a goth artwork by Yeganeh Ghasemi featuring model Goddess Ov Death, The Strain is inspired by the works of the one and only Guillermo Del Toro, delving even further into the band’s horror inspired roots and bringing forward all the talent of the aforementioned Lucas together with guitarist Wes MacDonald and bassist Zak Stulla, not to mention an array of guest musicians to make the EP even more compelling.

The title-track The Strain already begins in full force to the symphonic and epic keys by Lucas while guest drummer Andrew Suarez (Bangin Productions, Fatality) showcases all his dexterity behind his drum set, adding an extra touch of heaviness to the music, and also presenting elements from Doom and classic Heavy Metal with Lucas delivering his Ghost/Candlemass/Mercyful Fate-inspired vocals. Then featuring additional vocals by Beth Wilson and with Lucas taking care of the drumming duties, Crimson Peak is a slower but heavy-as-hell and obscure creation where Wes extracts sheer darkness from his riffage and solo, accompanied by the melodic, rumbling bass by Zak; whereas investing into a more progressive sonority were treated to Where Shadows Play, another solid tune by the band to also feature additional vocals by Beth Wilson, with Lucas and Beth making a great vocal duo while guest drummer Victor Boechat smashes his drums mercilessly from start to finish. And lastly, a very melodic and introspective intro morphs into the Gothic Rock and Metal feast entitled Mind Flayer, featuring drummer Ryan Claxton (This Is Death Valley) and additional vocals by Wes, while Lucas presents both his powerful clean vocals and his demonic gnarls from start to finish.

malacoda-2021You can stream the full EP on Spotify, show your support to Malacoda by following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and click HERE for all social media, links to buy their music and merch, videos and so on. “There really is a balance of dark aggression and beauty in these songs,” stated Lucas about the band’s new EP, complementing by saying that “that’s been the consistent tone with these four tracks – keeping it dark but letting some tender spots poke through.” And let’s say Lucas nailed it, with his words precisely describing the music found in The Strain and, consequently, inviting us all to join him and his henchmen in the dark realm ruled by Malacoda, and proving Malacoda are following a healthy and strong musical path, evolving as a band and providing us all fans high-quality metal music made in Canada with each one of their releases.

Best moments of the album: The Strain and Where Shadows Play.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing 
1. The Strain 7:49
2. Crimson Peak 3:51
3. Where Shadows Play 3:51
4. Mind Flayer 5:11

Band members
Lucas Di Mascio – vocals, keys, drums on “Crimson Peak”
Wes MacDonald – guitar, additional background vocals on “Mind Flayer”
Zak Stulla – bass

Guest musicians
Andrew Suarez – drums on “The Strain”
Victor Boechat – drums on “Where Shadows Play”
Ryan Claxton – drums on “Mind Flayer”
Beth Wilson – background vocals on “Crimson Peak” and “Where Shadows Play”

Album Review – Belle Morte / Crime of Passion (2021)

Enjoy this stunning album of Gothic and Symphonic Metal made in Belarus with dark and progressive flavors and a beautiful, melancholic vibe.

3.5rating

belle-morte-crime-of-passion-2021Formed in 2015 in Minsk, the capital and the largest city of Belarus, the musical project that goes by the Stygian name of Belle Morte plays a fusion of Gothic and Symphonic Metal with dark and progressive flavors and a beautiful, melancholic vibe. Spearheaded by the talented and stylish vocalist Belle Morte, the project has just released their brand new opus entitled Crime of Passion, following up on their highly acclaimed 2018 debut EP Game On. Produced, mixed and mastered by Sergey Butovsky (who also plays bass and does backing vocals on the entire album), displaying a delicate artwork by Stefan Heilemann (Heilemania), and inspired by John Fowles’ novel The Collector, Crime of Passion tells a coherent story which started as an unhealthy obsession and stalking and resulted in murder, both from the side of the murderer and his victim, all beautifully and meticulously put together by Belle Morte and her bandmates Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich on the guitars, Sergey Butovsky on bass, Maria Shumanskaya on keyboards and Rostislav Golubnichiy on drums in a way that will certainly please all fans of the genre.

Dark and melancholic sounds permeate the air in the cinematic intro Overture, preparing our hearts and souls for Who Are You, where Belle declaims the song’s poetic lyrics majestically (“You’re watching me, what do you see / I want to hide, but you’re behind / I try to run the hunt begun / Don’t cross this line, there’s no return”) while the band’s guitar duo slashes his stringed axe accompanied by the rumbling bass by Sergey; whereas investing in a more Gothic and modern sonority it’s time for the delicate If Only You Knew, featuring guest guitars by Artur Naumenko and displaying hints of Industrial Rock and Metal added to the band’s core essence. Artur keeps delivering his classic riffs in To Get Her, keeping the dark flames of Gothic and Symphonic Metal burning bright while Belle is again fantastic on vocals, resulting in a thrilling fusion of the music by Nightwish, Tristania and Lacrimosa, and leaning towards pure old school Symphonic Metal we’re treated to Beauty And The Beast, showcasing crushing beats, atmospheric passages and endless passion flowing from Belle’s distinguished voice supported by the guitars by Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich.

My Little Demon brings forward another round of their cryptic words declaimed by Belle and Sergey (“Come to me, my little demon, stay with me until the dawn / I won’t lie to you, my darling, when you fall asleep I’ll run / I won’t lie to you, my darling, you will lose me with the sun”), with the guitars by Ilya Rogovoy and Ilya Petrashkevich adding a touch of evil to the overall musicality, which is also the case in Broken Things, presenting a pleasant sonority led by Belle and her whimsical vocals and with Sergey once again kicking ass with his groovy bass. Then a serene intro gradually grows in intensity, evolving into a dark and melancholic ballad entitled Beauty Meant To Kill where the acoustic guitars by Sergey generate the perfect ambience for Belle to shine on vocals once again; whereas enfolding piano notes will penetrate deep inside your mind in Lace, featuring guest guitars by Kirill Movshuk, sounding very orchestral at times and with Belle hypnotizing us all with her soulful vocals as usual. And lastly, featuring guest backing vocals by Alexandra Mantis and Katya Shtirts, My Legacy drinks form the same fountain as renowned bands the likes of Epica, Within Temptation and Nightwish, or in other words, it’s the perfect way to close the album in great fashion.

belle-morte-2021The gorgeous and mesmerizing music by Belle Morte in Crime of Passion can be appreciated in full on Spotify, but of course in order to show your true support to the band you should definitely purchase a copy of the album by clicking HERE or HERE, as well as from their own BandCamp page or from the Aural webstore, and if you want to know more about Belle Morte and listen to more of their classy metal music simply go to their official Facebook page, to Instagram, to VKontakte and to their YouTube channel. Crime of Passion is one of those albums that will drag you to darkness, take you to another world and captivate all your senses once and for all, just the way we like it in Gothic music, and let’s hope Belle Morte and her amazing crew can keep embellishing the airwaves with more releases like their excellent new album for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Beauty And The Beast, My Little Demon and My Legacy.

Worst moments of the album: Broken Things.

Released in 2021 WormHoleDeath

Track listing     
1. Overture 1:38
2. Who Are You 3:48
3. If Only You Knew 4:35
4. To Get Her 5:11
5. Beauty And The Beast 3:43
6. My Little Demon 5:41
7. Broken Things 4:10
8. Beauty Meant To Kill 4:26
9. Lace 5:15
10. My Legacy 3:07

Bonus track
11. To Get Her (Acoustic version) 4:19

Band members
Belle Morte – vocals
Ilya Rogovoy – guitars on “Who Are You”, “Beauty And The Beast”, “My Little Demon”, “Broken Things” and “My Legacy”
Ilya Petrashkevich – guitars
Sergey Butovsky – bass, backing vocals, vocals on  “My Little Demon” and “To Get Her”, acoustic guitars on “Beauty Meant To Kill”
Maria Shumanskaya – keyboards
Rostislav Golubnichiy – drums

Guest musicians
Alexandra Mantis – backing vocals on “My Legacy”
Katya Shtirts – backing vocals on “My Legacy”
Kirill Movshuk – guitars on “Lace”
Artur Naumenko – guitars on “If Only You Knew” and “To Get Her”

Metal Chick of the Month – Heike Langhans

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The shackles of your demons fall silent… The shackles of your demons fall…

It’s time for the skies to get dark and melancholic here on The Headbanging Moose thanks to the doomed music blasted by our metal lady of the month of May, and I bet you’ll get absolutely addicted to her music right after the very first listen (in case you know nothing yet about her and her bands and projects, of course). Though of German descent, she was born on February 9, 1988 in Cape Town, a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, and currently resides in Sweden, where she joined Swedish Doom Metal band Draconian as the replacement to former singer Lisa Johansson in 2012. I’m talking about the multi-talented Heike Langhans, a songwriter, singer and designer well known for her work in the Gothic and metal scenes, always exploring a vast array of styles including Dark Wave, Electronic and Gothic Rock, among several others, therefore conquering the blackened hearts of the damned ones.

Drawn to melancholy Gothic music during her teenage years, Heike Langhans (which correct pronunciation is ‘hey-keh’ and ‘lung [the organ] – huns [like guns]’, as it’s a German name) began to dabble in composition, writing and singing at a very young age, already being part of school choirs at the age of eight, although she got sick of singing in groups, left that behind and started doing her own thing. She played piano occasionally, but mostly played classical guitar, which helped a lot in her writing process, and used to sing with her father when he played guitar at social gatherings. Heike joined her first band when she was around 15 years old, an all-girls band comprised of friends of her that was mainly a fun holiday thing, while she kept doing music on her own until she joined a proper band at the age of 19. Needless to say, she kept doing her own thing on the side to stay focused and as an outlet for her frustrations with the world and her surroundings.

Active since 2005, our South African started her career being associated with a few distinguished projects and bands, those being her Dark Electronic solo project :LOR3L3I:, South African Symphonic Metal band Inferium, and South African Black/Thrash Metal band Warthane, with her vocals being known to be sorrowful and her music peculiar and melancholic in nature. Regarding :LOR3L3I: (also known as LOR3L3I, LORELEI, or simply Lorelei), everything started back in 2006 as a melancholic electronic side project, with the name Lorelei having almost acted as an alter ego in a sense. According to Heike herself, the songs are raw and unpolished, a “spur-of-the-moment” type project where she just pours her heart into a song, record it and then struggle to touch it again, and you can take a very good listen at all her demos on her official BandCamp page, savoring delicate creations such as Jade Light and Fables. “I’ve said many times that I will never be able to sing these songs live, simply because I’ll be too emotional. It’s hard for me to wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes, so music is the only way. Lorelei is definitely my outlet and it’s quite revealing in many ways. Many people think me intimidating and secretive, but I’m more of an open book than what they care to realize,” commented Heike about her solo endeavor.

Inferium and Warthane are completely different stories, as they were already relatively established bands when Heike joined them. Under the moniker Heike Van Dominic, she was Inferium’s vocalist from 2005 until 2010, joining the band when they were still an instrumental group. They were the only band she knew doing Symphonic Metal at that time, with a huge influence from bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation. She said in one of her interviews that the band had a lot of potential and that they were doing quite well, but as they had a lot of issues with finding time and money to record and push it further they decided to call it quits in 2010. “I’ll always remember and enjoy my time in Inferium and I’ll forever be sad about the stellar songs that were to come, but it’s a sweet memory,” said Heike. Right after Inferium disbanded, more specifically in 2011, our diva, again under the name Heike Van Dominic, recorded the female vocals for the album Black Divine, by Warthane, which you can enjoy in its entirety on Spotify. Not only that, she also used her graphic designer skills to create the album’s stylish, somber artwork, proving how focused and talented she is it doesn’t matter which band or project she’s involved with.

Since 2012, Heike has been acting as the singer for Swedish Gothic/Doom Metal act Draconian, a cult band that started back in the already distant year of 1994 as Kerberos, playing Melodic Heavy and Death Metal with Black Metal influences, changing its name to Draconian around seven months after its inception. Heike joined the band following the departure of singer Lisa Johansson in 2011 after having made contact with guitarist Daniel Arvidsson, then with vocalist Anders Jacobsson to try an audition in Sweden. At first, she struggled to get a work visa in Sweden, which hampered the band’s ability to record an album, and until obtaining the visa she performed as a temporary singer for Gothic Rock band The Great Sleep in South Africa, as you can see for example in the song The Last Funeral. At the end of 2013, she finally received her work visa and was able to emigrate to Sweden, when she started working with Draconian while at the same time she started playing as a guest singer, guitarist and keyboardist in 2015 for Swedish Doom Metal band ISON, a side-project of Daniel Änghede (of Crippled Black Phoenix and Hearts of Black Science). She mentioned her main reasons for joining ISON were being able to play an instrument again like what she used to do in her teens, and putting a part of her own soul into it within a genre that was not electronic. You can have a very good taste of the music by ISON on their BandCamp page, with their first three albums having Heike on vocals, those being Cosmic Drone, Andromeda Skyline and Inner Space, or go to YouTube and search for their official videos such as the one for the song ISAE, as well as other precious gems like the duo playing a stunning acoustic version for The Final Cut by Pink Floyd (and you can compare their beautiful rendition with the original one HERE).

Finally, in 2015 Heike was able to record her first album with Draconian, by the way the sixth in the band’s career, the excellent Sovran, which she was not only responsible for the female vocal parts, but she also collaborated on writing the lyrics for tracks Dusk Mariner, Dishearten and The Marriage of Attaris, showing how easy it has been for Heike to connect with everyone at Draconian. “When I came to Sweden, I thought it would be very intimidating to have to all of a sudden be in this professional studio and work with world-class producers, and I underestimated myself a lot. But once I actually started doing it, I realized I was completely over-thinking everything. The guys were really laid back and easy to work with,” commented Heike. Then in 2020 she released with Draconian their second opus together, entitled Under a Godless Veil, where once again she was responsible for part of the lyrics, more specifically for the lyrics for the song Sleepwalkers, on top of her usual vocal duties. She also mentioned in one of her interviews that her work with Draconian hasn’t had any negative impact on her solo project :LOR3L3I: so far; quite the contrary, several Draconian fans kept writing her and asking her to continue to create music under her solo project, although she said nowadays she doesn’t have enough time to focus on that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Draconian or a newcomer to their doomed world, you must check all of their official videos on YouTube such as the ones for the songs Sorrow Of Sophia, Sleepwalkers, Lustrous Heart, The Sacrificial Flame, Moon Over Sabaoth and Stellar Tombs, all of their creations on Spotify, as well as live footage the likes of Pale Tortured Blue live at MS Connexion Complex in Mannheim, Germany in 2019, and simply get lost in their realm of melancholy.

Apart from all of those previous and current bands and projects, you can also enjoy Heike’s unique voice as a guest vocalist in several other bands from all over the world. For instance, she played live with Finnish Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band Hallatar in 2018, with whom she also recorded vocals for the song My Mistake and narrations for the songs Raven’s Song, Pieces and Spiral Gate from their 2017 album No Stars Upon the Bridge; she was a guest vocalist in the song Vision VII: One with the Soil from the 2017 album Visions, by Austrian Post-Black Metal act Anomalie; she also recorded the female vocal parts for the song The Path to Puya, from the 2019 album Aamamata by Spanish Doom/Gothic Metal act Helevorn; and vocals for the song Wolves at the Border, from the 2015 album Signal, by Swedish duo Hearts of Black Science. Not only that, Heike also did the layout and band photos for the 2020 album Premonitions, by International Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal band Sojourner, and was responsible for the vocals, keyboards, songwriting, lyrics, vocal recording, artwork, layout and design in the 2020 album Another World, by International Atmospheric Doom Metal band Light Field Reverie.

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When asked about her main idols and influences in music, Heike said it’s actually hard to pinpoint influences because many of her personal likes are not in any genres considered as Gothic in modern terms. However, the bands she related to early on would be Fields of The Nephilim, The Awakening, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Type O Negative, Dead Can Dance and Lycia, to name a few. In addition, as far as more modern Goth-inspired music goes, she has spent a great deal of time listening to Diary Of Dreams, Tiamat, Tristania, Paradise Lost, Anathema, Sins Of Thy Beloved, Katatonia, Draconian, and of course My Dying Bride. She said her passion for metal started when she was a teenager, as she used to get her father’s Pink Floyd and Meat Loaf CD’s and listen to them on repeat in her room while singing along, also watching renowned acts like Black Sabbath on VH1 and taping whatever metal she could find onto VHS or cassette. By the time she was 16, she was consuming a lot of metal from all sub-genres, gradually focusing on what suited her best emotionally speaking like Gothic, Symphonic and Doom Metal, only getting into Black Metal in her 20’s, but of course the emotional aspect and the melodies found in Doom Metal turned it into her all-time favorite genre as it certainly triggers a lot more in her personally.

In regards to touring, Heike said in one of her interviews she would love to tour around a South America, South Africa and Australia with Draconian, understanding that requires a lot of traveling and a huge investment, of course. “I look forward to traveling to countries to enjoy the scenery, food and people. The music is just our way of saying thank you for having us. It would feel slightly selfish to think our music is what made the show worth it, if you know what I mean,” complemented Heike, who also has a deep connection with the metal scene in her homeland. “Despite what most South Africans make themselves believe, Cape Town actually has a great metal scene and more bands than you might think. I can count on one hand the amount of friends I have there who ISN’T a musician. It’s a very creative and beautiful town.” She recommends Atmospheric Black Metal band Crow Black Sky, 2017 Battle for Wacken winners Megalodon, scene-legend Industrial Metal band Terminatryx and a few new-comers such as Constellatia as excellent bands from her beautiful country (and city) that we should all take a listen at.

Moving from South Africa to Sweden wasn’t an easy task for Heike, as it took around 19 months for her to receive her residence permit renewal in Sweden due to the country dealing with an influx of refugees. Based in Säffle, a municipality in Värmland County in west central Sweden, with the rest of the band since December 2019, Heike said she obviously misses Cape Town, her friends, the forwardness of people, Afrikaans jokes and Afrikaans words that you really can’t say anywhere else, but of course that she loves Scandinavia and that her head and her heart are in the North. Her Swedish might not be perfect yet, but her Afrikaans (Dutch) and German background ended up helping her a lot in understanding the language in the beginning, and she’s picking it up quite fast in her own opinion. She also commented about the fact that a lot of people in Sweden and in different parts of the world keep asking her why she’s white, which she believes that happens due to the idea the media sells that everyone in the African continent is black, complementing by saying she usually takes the opportunity to explain how things really work in South Africa.

Lastly, although Heike seems to be an unstoppable music-making machine, she’s just a regular human being like all of us who has her favorite hobbies and pastimes when she’s not singing, recording or performing on stage. As an avid gamer, she said she loves playing World of Warcraft and old school RPG’s the likes of Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Lionheart, as well as newer games like Skyrim, but of course she spends a great amount of time doing art, mostly digital and editing. There are days when she doesn’t want to deal with technology and she focuses of drawings and illustrations by hand, though. She also enjoys painting and photography, albeit she considers those quite expensive hobbies, and sewing, showing how versatile and talented she is. Furthermore, Heike is a big supporter of the Ubuntu Liberation Movement in South Africa, the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement, always focusing on human liberation and free energy. “I will not eat or drink anything that comes from big corporations. Yes it’s difficult, but I refuse to support them. I also don’t eat meat any more, and I don’t really care what people have to say about that. I think that once people really put in the time and effort and research, not only from a health or principle perspective, but from an environmental perspective, they will realize that there is a lot that they are not being told. If they want to follow all the bullshit lies in the industry, then fine. But I will actively be against that. That’s what I think being an activist is about,” said our dauntless diva, and you can know a lot more about Heike, her bands, projects and so on by watching several online interviews with her, such as this one at FemME 2015 and this one for Metal & High Heels in 2019, letting her smooth and enchanting words and her undeniable charisma penetrate deep inside your doomed soul.

Heike Langhans’ Official Facebook page
Heike Langhans’ Official Instagram
Draconian’s Official Facebook page
Draconian’s Official Instagram
Draconian’s Official Twitter
:LOR3L3I:’s Official Facebook page

“I love slow and melancholic music. It brings my inner suffering to the surface and Doom Metal makes me feel like it’s okay to be an emotional being that suffers in this strange world.” – Heike Langhans

Album Review – Marble / S.A.V.E (2021)

It’s time to bang your heads to the three theological virtues and the seven deadly sins in the form of first-class Melodic Metal made in Italy.

3.5rating

marble-s.a.v.e-2021Formed in the spring of 2003 in Mortara, a town and comune located in the Province of Pavia, in the region of Lombardy, Italy, Melodic Metal band Marble is finally back in full force after over a decade with their sophomore installment, entitled S.A.V.E, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed 2008 album A.t.G.o.d. Mixed and Mastered by Giulio Capone (Moonlight Haze) and displaying a stunning artwork by renowned Finnish artist Jan “Örkki” Yrlund of Darkgrove Design, S.A.V.E presents an irrepressible mix of heavy guitar riffs, powerful aggressiveness, amazing guitar solos, surprising keyboard harmonies and original technical rhythms by Paul Beretta and Omar Gornati on the guitars, Jacopo Marchesi on keyboards, Daniel Fleba on bass and Norman Ceriotti on drums, blended with frontwoman Eleonora Travaglino’s breathtaking, catchy melodies and epic choruses, while at the same time dealing with human behavior and entwined with the three theological virtues and the seven deadly sins in a gloomy and decadent mood, being therefore recommended for fans of both melodic and extreme music.

The smooth keys by Jacopo set the tone in the opening track Mine, based on the sin of greed, before exploding into violent and melodic Heavy Metal with Paul and Omar kicking ass with their classic riffs, whereas investing in a more Progressive Metal vein thanks to the intricate beats by Norman we have Heartless Disease, where Eleonora declaims the song’s words about the sin of luxury (“Outline of a moral / You will never fall into / You try to blame me for what? Blame your creed / This life is not an heartless disease”), followed by 30 Silver Coins, a song about hope, featuring guest vocals by Maurizio Caverzan (Ghostheart Nebula, Verlaine) who makes an interesting duo with Eleanora, leaning towards Melodic Death Metal at times. And it’s time to talk about vanity in My Mask Collection, where instead of being progressive like they wanted the music sounds a little confused or mixed, fortunately getting better after a while thanks to the good job done by Norman on drums. And inspired by the music by Nightwish, Lacuna Coil and Epica, the quintet fires the headbanging tune What Leads Us To, with Eleonora taking the lead with her captivating vocals singing about the sin of envy, accompanied by the crisp guitars by Paul and Omar.

Then Daniel and Norman smash their thunderous weapons in a song about gluttony entitled To Feed The Worms, inviting us all to dance and raise our horns together with the band in a solid display of Progressive and Melodic Metal, not to mention another awesome vocal performance by Eleonora; and a gripping vibe sets the tone in the ballad A Darker Shade Of Me, dealing with the sin of wrath, where Eleonora declaims the song’s poetic lyrics accompanied by acoustic guitars. Following such introspective tune, the band gets back to a more electrifying sonority firing the epic and imposing Where Is The Light, a song about faith led by the Black Sabbath-inspired beats by Norman and the sharp riffage by Paul and Omar. The rumbling, low-tuned bass by Daniel kick off the also melodic Timelines, revolving around the sin of sloth, evolving into a Gothic Metal ballad by Marble that will please all fans of this more delicate side of metal music, with Eleonora stealing the show with her smooth vocals, whereas putting the pedal to the metal it’s time for a classic Heavy Metal feast about charity by Marble entitled Daymare Town, where Jacopo is on absolute fire with his whimsical keys, living up to the legacy of renowned acts the likes of Nightwish and Epica, before soulful riffs and dark bass lines are offered to us all in the instrumental outro Sins And Virtues Ending, closing the album in a somber and melancholic manner.

marble-2021If you want to have a better taste of how the seven deadly sins and the three theological virtues taste and feel in S.A.V.E, you can stream the full album on Spotify, but of course in order to show your utmost support to those Italian metallers you should start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their great music, and above all that, purchase your favorite copy of S.A.V.E by clicking HERE, as well as from Dead Pulse or Apple Music. As we’re all sinners in the end, why not succumb to our deepest sins and desires to the sound of the Melodic Metal played by Marble? I’m sure the band would love to be part of the soundtrack to your most wicked and immoral moments.

Best moments of the album: What Leads Us To, To Feed The Worms and Daymare Town.

Worst moments of the album: My Mask Collection.

Released in 2021 Sliptrick Records

Track listing
1. Mine 4:38
2. Heartless Disease 3:50
3. 30 Silver Coins 4:41
4. My Mask Collection 4:46
5. What Leads Us To 5:49
6. To Feed The Worms 4:36
7. A Darker Shade Of Me 2:38
8. Where Is The Light 4:17
9. Timelines 3:55
10.Daymare Town 4:05
11. Sins And Virtues Ending 1:57

Band members
Eleonora Travaglino – vocals
Paul Beretta – guitar
Omar Gornati – guitar
Jacopo Marchesi – keyboards
Daniel Fleba – bass
Norman Ceriotti – drums

Guest musician
Maurizio Caverzan – additional vocals on “30 Silver Coins”

Metal Chick of the Month – Mary Zimmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Zimmer’s Official Facebook page
Mary Zimmer’s Official Instagram
Mary Zimmer’s Official YouTube channel
Mary Zimmer’s Official Twitter
Mary Zimmer’s LinkTree
Helion Prime’s Official Facebook page
Helion Prime’s Official Instagram
Helion Prime’s Official YouTube channel

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

Album Review – Moonspell / Hermitage (2021)

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution returns with their thirteenth full-length album, offering us all a revolutionary and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence.

Portugal’s own Dark Metal institution Moonspell is approaching their 30th anniversary more ambitious and stronger than ever, and in order to proper celebrate such important milestone there’s nothing better than savoring each and every track from their newest opus, entitled Hermitage, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Sólstafir) at Orgone Studios and featuring a stylish artwork by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh, Hermitage is not only the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2017 album 1755 and their 2015 masterpiece Extinct, but it’s also a revolutionary, wonderfully intuitive and epic journey through the darkest days of human existence masterfully crafted by frontman Fernando Ribeiro, guitarist Ricardo Amorim, keyboardist Pedro Paixão, bassist Aires Pereira and newcomer Hugo Ribeiro on drums, as well as a testament to what they’ve always loved the most, which is honest, emotional metal that binds us even in the darkest times.

Just like the soundtrack to a dark thriller, the opening track The Greater Good will already mesmerize your senses, with the thunderous bass jabs by Aires and the massive beats by Hugo adding heaviness to such atmospheric tune, whereas sheer poetry flows from Fernando’s words (“So close to me, as tight as you can be / Inside the cell / The voice within, the desert wind / Calls out our name / So close, so close”) in Common Prayers, another captivating Gothic Metal aria by Moonspell where Ricardo and Aires are on absolute fire with their stringed weapons, not to mention the epic keys by Pedro. In All or Nothing, the guitars by Ricardo exhale passion and harmony nonstop in a beautiful display of Dark and Melancholic Metal that will please all fans of Moonspell’s most Gothic side, while Fernando is flawless as usual on vocals; and back to a more visceral and atmospheric sonority we’re treated to the dense Hermitage, with Fernando roaring the song’s epic lyrics (“In the circle of life and sin / On this day of apocalypse / On our way to hermitage / It’s the return to innocence”) while Hugo pounds his drums mercilessly. Then the cryptic bass sounds by Aires are intertwined with the classic keys by Pedro in Entitlement, a very melodic tune blending elements from Gothic and Progressive Metal, therefore sounding very experimental at times, with Ricardo taking the lead with his soulful riffs and solos.

It’s time for a fully instrumental voyage through the realms of darkness in the form of Solitarian, offering our ears classic, crying guitars, delicate keys and tribal beats, working as an interlude for the piercing The Hermit Saints, a headbanging extravaganza where all band members are in absolute sync, generating that classy trademark sound found in their latest albums. Moreover, Fernando’s anguished vocals are effectively supported by all background elements, resulting in a lecture in Dark Metal. In Apophthegmata we face an enfolding and smooth start, evolving into a massive sonority where Ricardo and Aires are once again unstoppable with their axes while Hugo showcases all his skills and potency behind his drums and Pedro keeps the ambience as sinister as it can be with his keys; whereas the quintet offers us fans over seven minutes of magnificent Dark Metal titled Without Rule, where the music remains ethereal but at the same time heavy and sharp from start to finish, with Fernando leading his bandmates into the unknown, flowing into the cinematic Black Metal-inspired outro City Quitter, putting a beyond atmospheric conclusion to such multi-layered album. Not only that, if you purchase the superb mediabook or limited deluxe box set versions of Hermitage, you’ll get as a beyond amazing bonus track the song Darkness in Paradise, Moonspell’s cover version for Candlemass’ classic tune from their 1988 album Ancient Dreams (check out the original version HERE), and let me tell you that their tribute to one of the pillars of Doom Metal is just as imposing as the original song, with Fernando stealing the spotlight with his Stygian vocals.

You can enjoy Hermitage in its entirety on Spotify, but this album is so detailed, enfolding and captivating that I highly recommend you purchase a copy of it to add it to your collection of dark and melancholic albums from Moonspell’s BandCamp page or webstore (where you can by the way find the special mediabook edition), or simply click HERE for all locations where you can buy or stream this precious gem of contemporary Dark Metal. Needless to say, don’t forget to follow Moonspell on Facebook and on Instagram to keep up to date with all things surrounding one of the most important metal bands of the European scene. As soon as this pandemic is over, we’ll all be able to leave our hermitages, including the guys from Moonspell, and we’ll finally be able to meet them again on stage to stun us all with the impressive creations of their newborn spawn.

Best moments of the album: Common Prayers, Hermitage, The Hermit Saints and Apophthegmata.

Worst moments of the album: Solitarian.

Released in 2021 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. The Greater Good 5:04
2. Common Prayers 4:08
3. All or Nothing 7:22
4. Hermitage 4:43
5. Entitlement 6:16
6. Solitarian 4:07
7. The Hermit Saints 4:22
8. Apophthegmata 5:41
9. Without Rule 7:42
10. City Quitter (Outro) 2:59

Mediabook/Limited Deluxe Box Set bonus track
11. Darkness in Paradise (Candlemass cover) 7:10

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards, samples, programming
Aires Pereira – bass
Hugo Ribeiro – drums

Album Review – Rioghan / Blackened Sky EP (2021)

An up-and-coming Finnish poet and lyricist translates her work into music in her debut EP, deeply rooted in Progressive, Gothic and Progressive Metal.

Formed in 2019 by Finnish singer Rioghan Darcy, Lapua, Finland-based Alternative/Gothic Metal entity Rioghan is deeply rooted in Progressive, Gothic and Progressive Metal, translating into fresh and captivating music Rioghan’s work as both a poet and a lyricist. Now in 2021 our dauntless artist teamed up with Jonne Soidinaho, Eemeli Bodde and Atte Pohjonen, all skilled musicians from the Finnish music scene, to come up with a four-song EP entitled Blackened Sky, her debut installment as a vocalist. With all instruments being recorded and programming done by Eemeli and Jonne in various locations while vocals were recorded with Ville Hautaluoma in his studio in Seinäjoki, Finland, Blackened Sky brings something new to the table, being recommended for fans of rock and metal music who are not afraid of exploring newer, more alternative lands that are at the same time heavy, obscure, whimsical and fascinating.

Atmospheric and ethereal form the very first second, the opening track Hollowness already presents Rioghan’s delicate, enfolding vocals boosted by the song’s gentle background keys in a stylish fusion of Progressive and Alternative Rock and Metal, whereas sick Groove Metal riffs and bass punches together with tribalistic beats generate the perfect ambience for Rioghan’s piercing voice in Enough, where she showcases her more aggressive side and, therefore, turning this song into a must-listen for fans of the music by bands like Tesseract and Jinjer. Then investing in a much more alternative sound Rioghan brings forth the stylish Wither, where you won’t find the heaviness of the guitars from the previous song but instead electronic and atmospheric elements like what’s seen in the music by Lorde; and lastly, it’s time for an embracing, orchestral ambience in Corrupt, with Rioghan being supported by classic acoustic guitars while the music flows smoothly until everything fades to the sound of her comforting vocals.

I guess there’ll be a lot of discussion among fans of alternative music if Rioghan is rock, metal or something else, and that’s in my humble opinion the beauty of her music, avoiding any labels while at the same time bringing forth stunning elements from an array of musical styles, with Blackened Sky perfectly representing the first step in her promising career. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to Rioghan by following her on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming her music on Spotify, and of course, by purchasing Blackened Sky from her own BandCamp page (or by pre-saving it to your desired music library by clicking HERE). I truly hope she doesn’t take too long to mesmerize us all once again with another EP or, even better, with her first full-length album, but until then let’s close our eyes and relax to the sound of the unique creations found in Blackened Sky, a short and sweet display of what this talented musician from the land of ice snow is capable of doing.

Best moments of the album: Enough.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Hollowness 3:25
2. Enough 4:46
3. Wither 3:18
4. Corrupt 3:26

Band members
Rioghan Darcy – vocals

Guest musicians
Eemeli Bodde & Jonne Soidinaho – all instruments, programming

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020

“Rock stars come and go. Musicians play until they die.” – Eddie Van Halen

What can I say about the year of 2020? No words can describe all the pain, fear, anxiety, losses and struggles we all had to endure during what’s going to be sadly remembered as the worst year of our modern times. We saw the rise of coronavirus, which had a huge negative impact on pretty much everything and everyone we know, with millions of hardworking people unfortunately losing their jobs, concerts being cancelled, restaurants and other businesses being shut down, people getting stuck in their homes and having to deal with psychological issues like depression, and more important than that, with countless lives, and in some cases people really close to us, people we love, losing their battle against such horrible disease. We also witnessed a gut-wrenching surge in racism against black people all over the world, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the never-ending fight for freedom and justice, trying to make our world a better place for everyone. And last but not least, we lost so many iconic figures it’s hard to list everyone without crying a little. We lost sports titans such as Kobe Bryant, Diego Maradona and Paolo Rossi, amazing, talented actors and actresses including our beloved “Black Panther” Chadwick Boseman, the original “Darth Vader” David Prowse and the unstoppable Mad Max’s villain “Immortal Joe” Hugh Keays-Byrne, and music geniuses like Rush’s unparalleled Neil Peart and one of the best and most revolutionary guitarists of all time, the one and only Eddie Van Halen. May their souls rest in peace.

However, although we might be living such difficult and stressful times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with the development of effective vaccines that will certainly put our society back on track sooner than later, giving us all some hope and pointing to a much better future for all of us. In the meantime, I guess one thing that we metalheads have been doing (and will always do) throughout such shitty year is using the music we love to face all of our problems and fears with our heads and horns high in the sky, never giving up nor giving in. Having said that, I’ll leave you with The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2020, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums, showing to us all that it doesn’t matter what happens with the world, heavy music will always stand strong. From the most primeval form of Black Metal to fast and electrifying Power Metal, from a beyond amazing soaring numbers of women kicking ass in an array of styles such as Doom, Symphonic and Death Metal to the most underground Atmospheric Black Metal entities you can think of, from our good old Rock N’ Roll to modern-day Alternative Metal, music prevailed above darkness, pain and hate, and that’s how it will be forever and ever. Enjoy our list of top metal albums for this (terrible) year that’s coming to an end, and let’s keep raising our horns and banging our heads together in 2021!

1. Primal Fear – Metal Commando (REVIEW)
Join Primal Fear’s undisputed rock brigade and become a true metal commando to the sound of their breathtaking new album.
Best song of the album: Infinity

2. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say (REVIEW)
It’s time to listen to what these four (un)dead men from Orlando, Florida have to say in their thrilling new opus.
Best song of the album: Amongst the Shadows & the Stones

3. Testament – Titans Of Creation (REVIEW)
The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.
Best song of the album: Night of the Witch

4. Lamb of God – Lamb of God (REVIEW)
Re-energized and unrelenting, Lamb of God are finally back after five years with their pulverizing eighth studio album.
Best song of the album: Gears

5. Sepultura – Quadra (REVIEW)
A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal.
Best song of the album: Guardians of Earth

6. Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (REVIEW)
These UK veterans are ready to set the world on fire once again with one of the most ferocious Thrash Metal albums of the year.
Best song of the album: Religiousuicide

7. Ecclesia – De Ecclesiæ Universalis (REVIEW)
This army of French inquisitors stands strong on their crusade against every doom heretic with their incendiary debut album.
Best song of the album: Antichristus

8. Eleine – Dancing In Hell (REVIEW)
Time for us all to dance in the fires of hell to the sound of the striking new opus by this unstoppable Swedish Symphonic Metal group.
Best song of the album: Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie (W.Y.R.C.L.)

9. Grave Digger – Fields of Blood (REVIEW)
Grave Digger celebrate 40 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal on a journey back to the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.
Best song of the album: Freedom

10. Konvent – Puritan Masochism (REVIEW)
A dark, primeval and stunning fusion of Death and Doom Metal masterfully crafted by four unrelenting women hailing from Denmark.
Best song of the album: Puritan Masochism

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (REVIEW)
12. Paradise Lost – Obsidian (REVIEW)
13. Axel Rudi Pell – Sign of the Times (REVIEW)
14. Raventale – Planetarium II (REVIEW)
15. Hellsmoke – 2020 (REVIEW)
16. My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (REVIEW)
17. Burning Witches – Dance with the Devil (REVIEW)
18. Naglfar – Cerecloth (REVIEW)
19. Scarlet Aura – Stormbreaker (REVIEW)
20. Thundermother – Heat Wave (REVIEW)

And how about we also pay a tribute to the bands that released short and sweet albums that condensed pretty much the same amount of electricity, rage and intricacy than any of the full-length albums from the list above? That’s why we’re also going to provide you as usual our Top 10 EP’s of 2020 for you to see that size doesn’t really matter.

1. Front – Antichrist Militia (REVIEW)
2. Malfested – Shallow Graves (REVIEW)
3. Tøronto – Under Siege (REVIEW)
4. Soul Dissolution – Winter Contemplations (REVIEW)
5. Lutharö – Wings of Agony (REVIEW)
6. Póstuma – Moralis (REVIEW)
7. Black Sun – Silent Enemy (REVIEW)
8. MĀRA – Self​-​Destruct. Survive. Thrive! (REVIEW)
9. Serocs – Vore (REVIEW)
10. Invocation – Attunement to Death (REVIEW)

Do you agree with our list? What are your top 10 albums of 2020? Also, don’t forget to tune in every Tuesday at 10pm BRT on Rádio Coringão to enjoy the best of classic and underground metal with Jorge Diaz and his Timão Metal, and every Thursday at 8pm UTC+2 on Midnight Madness Metal e-Radio for the best of underground metal with The Headbanging Moose Show! And if you lost some or most of our special editions of The Headbanging Moose Show, including our Top 20 Underground Albums of 2020 – Parts I and II, go to our Mixcloud page and there you have hours and hours of the best of the independent scene, sounds good?

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2021!

And before we go, let’s bang our heads one last time in 2020 with a classic Christmas song by an amazing Romanian band that loves Heavy Metal from the bottom of their hearts, pointing to much better times ahead for all of us! Enjoy!

Album Review – Sombria / Chirographon Dei (2020)

Let your soul be embraced by the beautiful fusion of Dark and Melancholic Metal from the debut album by a promising international group that has all it takes to conquer the world of heavy music.

Formed in 2019 by singer and songwriter Dimi De San, who comes under the name ‘’Valentina Devin’’, and guitarist and composer Raven Seven, Sombria are an international Dark/Melancholic Metal project featuring members from Greece, Norway and Mexico, those being the aforementioned Dimi De San on vocals and Raven Seven on guitars and orchestrations together with session musicians Lucien Keir also on the guitar, Saber Thorn on bass and Winter Cain on drums, aiming at raising awareness through their music, lyrics and performances over many sensitive subjects like child poverty and environmental issues. Now in 2020 this recently formed unity is unleashing upon humanity their debut opus Chirographon Dei, which translates from Latin as something like “the manuscript of the gods”, containing nine original songs recorded, mixed and mastered by Raven Seven at his own studio, all embraced by a gorgeous artwork by Dimi De San, and all depicting everything Symphonic Gothic Metal stands for.

Enfolding orchestrations and piano notes permeate the air in the opening tune Voyage into Lethe, with Dimi embellishing the airwaves with her operatic vocals while Raven Seven extracts somber, minimalist sounds form his guitar in a hybrid of the early days of Nightwish and Tristania. Then leaning towards the most melancholic form of Gothic Metal the band offers our ears the sorrowful Black December, with Saber Thorn and Winter Cain bringing a welcome dosage of Doom Metal to the musicality, followed by Sarcophagus of Roses, another symphonic and epic aria by Sombria where Winter Cain showcases all his dexterity behind his drums, offering Dimi all she needs to shine once again on vocals and, therefore, resulting in the perfect depiction of modern-day Symphonic Gothic Metal. And whimsical piano notes are intertwined with the rumbling bass by Saber Thorn in the gothic extravaganza Mirror of God, where Raven Seven and Lucien Keir make a dynamic duo with their darkened riffage, with the music remaining dense and imposing until the very end.

Dimi takes the lead with her pensive, anguished vocals in the darkly beautiful Ballet of Sadness, a delicate ballad by Sombria that will conquer the hearts of even the toughest metalheads, whereas the crying sound of the violin kicks off the epic and obscure The Soul’s Manuscript, where Winter Cain keeps pounding his drums and bringing doom to us all while Dimi invades our souls with her mesmerizing voice, not to mention the excellent job done once again by the band’s guitar duo. Then like a creature from another world the band comes ripping in the symphonic and heavy-as-hell Wine of Lunacy, where Gothic, Doom and Symphonic Metal are united in the name of darkness. Needless to say, Dimi is once again stunning on vocals, and investing in an even more romantic musicality we have Penitence, with all band members providing Dimi a truly enfolding ambience perfect for her sexy vocals, while the music alternates between heavier moments and menacing passages. Lastly, Sombria’s final breath of obscurity, melancholy and melodious lines comes in the form of the multi-layered Poem from the Dark Gardens, even more epic and operatic than all previous songs, with Raven Seven and Lucien Keir slashing their axes in great fashion supported by all background orchestrations.

The magical and dark world crafted by Sombria in Chirographon Dei can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course in order to show Dimi, Raven Seven and their loyal henchmen all your support and admiration you should grab a copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In addition, don’t forget to also follow Sombria on Facebook and on Instagram to keep an eye on everything surrounding such amazing multi-national band, once again demonstrating your passion for the darkest and most melancholic form of heavy music. Sombria’s hybrid of Dark and Melancholic Metal found in their debut opus will surely embrace you like the bitterly cold wind on a winter night, dragging you to their lair and keeping you in the shadows forever and ever. And I’m more than sure that’s exactly what you’re expecting from those ptalented musicians who put their hearts and souls into creating meaningful music for lovers of the dark side.

Best moments of the album: Voyage into Lethe, Sarcophagus of Roses and Wine of Lunacy.

Worst moments of the album: Black December.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Voyage into Lethe 5:47
2. Black December 6:07
3. Sarcophagus of Roses 7:07
4. Mirror of God 6:52
5. Ballet of Sadness 5:01
6. The Soul’s Manuscript 5:45
7. Wine of Lunacy 7:28
8. Penitence 7:11
9. Poem from the Dark Gardens 9:02

Band members
Valentina Devin (Dimi De San) – vocals
Raven Seven – guitars, orchestrations

Guest musicians
Lucien Keir – guitar (session)
Saber Thorn – bass (session)
Winter Cain – drums (session)

Album Review – Veil of Secrets / Dead Poetry (2020)

Emerging as a result of the contact and joint work between Asgeir Mickelson and Vibeke Stene, this newborn Norwegian Doom Metal unity is ready to darken the skies with their amazing debut effort.

Emerging as a result of the contact and joint work between Asgeir Mickelson, known for having played drums in Borknagar, Ihsahn, Vintersorg and Testament, among others, and the unparalleled Vibeke Stene, known as the singer of Tristania for ten years, in Asgeir’s project called God of Atheists, Norwegian Melodic Doom Metal entity Veil of Secrets has just released their debut opus Dead Poetry, the first official album in 13 years with Vibeke on vocals since Tristania’s Illumination. Produced by Vibeke and Asgeir themselves, mixed by Børge Finstad at Toproom Studio, mastered by Endre Kirkesola at dUb Studio, and featuring guests Sareeta (Ram-Zet, Ásmegin) on violin and Erling Malm (Endolith, Articulus) on harsh vocals, Dead Poetry is everything a fan of Gothic and Doom Metal wants, and a fantastic comeback by Vibeke to the world of heavy music. “After some years with no music production or dissemination, I strongly felt an inner longing to create and feel alive through music. So I started to seek a resolution,” said Vikeke. “I’ve taken the chance to believe that my words, my thoughts, and dreams, could have any value combined with my inner tones. The composing process of ‘Dead Poetry’, was deeply founded on honesty and trust, and therefore I’m very proud to finally share Veil of Secrets.”

Vibeke and Asgeir bring the doom to our hearts form the very first second in The Last Attempt, with our beloved soprano flawlessly declaiming the song’s poetic words (“I kept my promise / The world was unaware / I sheltered in the safest place / And I would not go far away”) while Asgeir pounds his drums with anguish and sorrow and slashes his guitar in great fashion, and  more melancholy and somber passages are offered by the duo in the old school Sear the Fallen, sounding like the early days of Tristania with Asgeir’s own twist, with the grim gnarls by Erling adding an extra dosage of evil to the overall result. Then the stunning violin by Sareeta embellishes the airwaves in the menacing and dense Remorseful Heart, a lesson in Doom Metal infused with melodic and atmospheric elements, all of course spiced up by the razor-edged riffage by the skillful Asgeir and the mesmerizing vocal duet by Vibeke and Erling, whereas acoustic guitars set the tone in the Doom Metal aria The Lie of Her Prosperity, a solid and atmospheric creation by the duo where the drums by Asgeir couldn’t have been more sluggish and grim, and with Vibeke shining as usual with her enfolding vocals.

Heavier and even more doomed than its predecessors thanks to the rumbling bass and fierce beats by Asgeir, Fey is the perfect soundtrack for savoring a dark and bitterly cold night alone, with Vibeke bringing a touch of delicacy and finesse to the heaviness blasted by her bandmate; and you better get ready to be absolutely hypnotized by the crying melody of the violin by Sareeta in Bryd, a lesson in classic Doom Metal with Asgeir being ominous with his riffs and slow and steady drums. Needless to say, Vibeke is sensational with her whimsical voice once again, and the second to last fusion of old school doom with more melodic lines comes in the form of Meson, reminding me of Tristania from their album World of Glass. Furthermore, Asgeir’s piercing guitars make an interesting paradox with his damned beats, with Erling’s demonic roars enhancing the song’s punch considerably. And there’s nothing better than ending such majestic album than with a pure, unfiltered Doom Metal aria spearheaded by Vibeke’s delicate but venomous voice entitled Entirety, flowing smoothly and in the most Stygian way possible thanks to the captivating riffage by Asgeir, with Sareeta’s violin putting a gorgeous ending to the band’s musical voyage.

It’s indeed a true pleasure for any metalhead that enjoys a good amount of melancholy, darkness and sorrow in Gothic and Doom Metal to see the multi-talented Vibeke Stene back in action after so many years, and even better when the final result is an amazing album like Dead Poetry, which is by the way available for a full listen on Spotify and on sale from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Crime Records webstore in CD and LP format, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In addition, let’s all show our support to Vibeke and Asgeir by following the project on Facebook and on Instagram, thanking Asgeir forever and ever for inspiring Vibeke to return to the metal community, and hoping that Veil of Secrets expand their reach and spread their blackened wings over the entire world with more albums and live performances in a not-so-distant future. In a year that has been nothing but chaos, obscurity and sadness, who could have imagined that one of the best news in the metal community would come in the form of doom?

Best moments of the album: The Last Attempt, Remorseful Heart and Fey.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Crime Records

Track listing
1. The Last Attempt 5:24
2. Sear the Fallen 6:50
3. Remorseful Heart 5:27
4. The Lie of Her Prosperity 6:19
5. Fey 6:32
6. Bryd 4:27
7. Meson 7:02
8. Entirety 6:21

Band members
Vibeke Stene – vocals
Asgeir Mickelson – guitars, bass, drums

Guest musicians
Sareeta – violin
Erling Malm – harsh vocals