Concert Review – Arch Enemy & Behemoth (Rebel, Toronto, ON, 04/25/2022)

A night of rain, insanity, blasphemy and, above all that, first-class Heavy Metal for the delight of thousands of metalheads in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Unto Others and Napalm Death

Despite the heavy rain that decided to hit Toronto only a couple of hours before the fantastic tour named The North American Siege 2022 took the city by storm, the venue chosen for such metal attack, the spacious Rebel, was almost packed already when the first band of the night hit the stage exactly at 6:30pm, American Heavy Metal/Gothic Rock act UNTO OTHERS, and let me tell you I feel a little ashamed for not knowing those guys before last night. Promoting their 2021 opus Strength, vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Franco and his henchmen put on a sensational show, with songs such as Give Me to the Night, Summer Lightning and When Will God’s Work Be Done inspiring all fans to dance, slam into the pit, or simply raise their horns in the name of Rock N’ Roll. It was a short and sweet performance by such talented band, and I hope to see them again in Toronto (or anywhere else in the world) in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Subdivisions (Rush song)
Heroin
Give Me to the Night
No Children Laughing Now
Can You Hear the Rain
Nightfall
Summer Lightning
When Will God’s Work Be Done

Band members
Gabriel Franco – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Sebastian Silva – guitars
Brandon Hill – bass
Colin Vranizan – drums

Right after a bathroom/beer break (not necessarily in this order), it was time for the iconic Barney Greenway and his Grindcore/Death Metal institution NAPALM DEATH to show Toronto what noise is all about for the delight of admirers of the heaviest and most demented side of music who attended the concert. Having released earlier this year the album Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw of Throes, the band was on absolute fire from start to finish, with Shane Embury and John Cooke hammering their respective bass and guitar mercilessly throughout their entire set. Amidst a hurricane of infernal tunes the likes of Fuck the Factoid, Contagion, Scum and the one-second masterpiece You Suffer, Barney had time to distill his opinion about controversial topics such as illegal immigration, being always of course on the side of the less fortunate. Closing their boisterous setlist, the band smashed our faces with their rendition of Dead Kennedys’ all-time classic Nazi Punks Fuck Off, sending a message of love and peace, and warning us it won’t take long for those four British noisemakers to return to our beloved city.

Setlist
Unchallenged Hate
Fuck the Factoid
Backlash Just Because
Hung
Contagion
Continuing War on Stupidity
Everyday Pox
Invigorating Clutch
Suffer the Children
Breed to Breathe
Scum
Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
You Suffer
Smash a Single Digit
Deceiver
Dead
Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)

Band members
Mark “Barney” Greenway – vocals
John Cooke – guitars
Shane Embury – bass, backing vocals, noises, effects
Danny Herrera – drums

ARCH ENEMY

Precisely at 8:35pm Sweden’s own Melodic Death Metal army ARCH ENEMY (although we can say the band is now 60% Swedish, 20% American and 20% Canadian) hit the stage and delivered exactly what the crowd wanted, which was a fusion of some of their best classics with the new songs Deceiver, Deceiver, House of Mirrors and Handshake With Hell, from their upcoming album Deceivers (to be released in July), spearheaded by the unstoppable Alissa White-Gluz and, of course, by one of the best guitarists of the Scandinavian metal scene, Mr. Michael Amott. It was clear in their faces how much they missed playing in front of an audience during the pandemic, in special Alissa who always gets very emotional when playing for her Canadian “family”, which translated into sheer adrenaline for our vulgar delectation. As a longtime fan of the band I was obviously more inspired to bang my head to songs such as Ravenous, Dead Bury Their Dead and Nemesis, but I must say their entire performance was awesome. How long will we have to wait to see Alissa and the boys again in Toronto? Massive circle pits like the ones we witnessed yesterday are not created out of silence, you know. We need Arch Enemy!

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night
Deceiver, Deceiver
The World Is Yours
Ravenous
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
House of Mirrors
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
Handshake With Hell
Dead Bury Their Dead
Nemesis
Fields of Desolation (Outro)
Enter the Machine

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

BEHEMOTH

And at 10:05pm the gates of hell opened once again and the almighty Blackened Death Metal horde BEHEMOTH emerged from the underworld with another flawless and very theatrical performance, darkening the skies of Toronto and putting a huge, devilish smile on the faces of everyone at Rebel (at least on the faces of the ones not wearing masks). Kicking off their demonic concert with one of my favorite Behemoth songs of all time, the incendiary Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, the multi-talented Nergal, Seth, Orion and Inferno did not disappoint their fans, sounding utterly heavy, dark and blasphemous until the very last second. Their brand new song, entitled Ov My Herculean Exile, from their upcoming (and still untitled) new album, sounded amazing live, but of course there’s nothing like raising our horns in the name of evil to masterpieces such as Ov Fire and the Void, Christians to the Lions, Chant for Eschaton 2000, and the hymn to Satan himself, O Father O Satan O Sun!, proving why Behemoth are one of the best and most obscure bands of the current metal scene. And when the night was over and those Polish blasphemers left the stage, it was time for us Torontonians to keep some of that darkness inside our hearts, face the cold and rainy weather outside again, and return to our lairs waiting for the next time Behemoth come back to crush the infidels in Toronto with their undisputed music.

Setlist
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Ov Fire and the Void
Evoe
Christians to the Lions
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Ov My Herculean Exile
Decade of Therion
Slaves Shall Serve
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

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Metal Chick of the Month – Johanna Sadonis

Lucifer, oh, Lucifer… Falling for me…

As another weird and dark year is coming to its inevitable end, and as winter is finally coming, let’s set The Headbanging Moose on fire and warm us up this month of December with our tribute to the last metal lady of 2021, the unstoppable Johanna Sadonis, also known as Johanna Claudia Platow, the frontwoman for Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock entity Lucifer. Born on January 21, 1979 in Berlin, Germany, but currently residing in Stockholm, Sweden due to being married to Lucifer’s own guitarist and drummer Nicke Andersson, Johanna is not only an accomplished and extremely talented vocalist, but also a DJ, a designer, an art director and a lyricist involved in various metal bands and projects during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Having said all that, are you ready to join Johanna in her quest for dark and doomed music?

A late bloomer in the Hard Rock scene, Johanna started out in the 90’s playing and singing Extreme Metal in the underground scene, gradually moving to a darker and more melodic 70’s-inspired Hard Rock and Heavy Metal style after founding Lucifer back in 2014. But let’s take a step back in time and talk a little about her early days and how she started in music before moving on to her current band. Johanna got into rock music when she was really young with her parents’ record collection, getting to know bands the likes of The Rolling stones, AC/DC, ZZ Top and Deep Purple, among others, as well as Punk Rock from her older brother. Then in 1992 when she was 13 she went to see Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, with her next gig being Danzig when she was 14, setting her first step into the dark side of music and moving on to heavier and darker styles such as Death, Black and Doom Metal.

According to Johanna herself that happened because she was at a summer camp when she was 12 and two of her friends were into metal, and when she was 16 those guys asked her to guest sing on the demo cassette of their Death Metal band (which by the way ended up happening a few more times as that was the thing in the 90’s), getting her more and more involved with the underground scene in Berlin. At that time Johanna said she was very serious about all that. She had black hair, black clothes, her whole room was black, and she got into magic, having worked at an esoteric book shop after school. However, her earliest memory of her fascination with singing and music was when she discovered the song Leader Of The Pack by the Shangri-Las on a Rock N’ Roll compilation cassette that her mom gave her when she was six. As she couldn’t speak English at that time, she said she started writing lyrics to songs down phonetically so she could sing along as a child. Later in her early teenage years she started to write poems and lyrics, and bought her first acoustic guitar, teaching herself to play and to sing.

It was only in 2014 in Berlin when Johanna formed Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock outfit Lucifer, and after a few lineup changes Johanna became the only original member of the band currently comprised of our stunning frontwoman together with guitarist and drummer Nicke Andersson, guitarists Martin Nordin and Linus Björklund, and bassist Harald Göthblad, having also relocated the band to Stockholm, Sweden, as already mentioned. When asked if she’s ever faced any legal problems with using the name Lucifer considering it’s a name other bands have already used throughout the years, she mentioned she wouldn’t have chosen the name if it would have belonged to a larger active band, but so far she hasn’t had any problems with it. In addition, when asked about how dark the name of the band is, Johanna reminded us all that bands like Black Sabbath and Pentagram are not Black or Death Metal, also mentioning The Rolling Stones’ classic Sympathy for The Devil as an example of how demonic figures can also be used successfully in a more Rock N’ Roll way.

Playing what can be called a 70’s-inspired fusion of Rock N’ Roll and Doom Metal, Luficer have already released four full-length albums, those being Lucifer I (2015), Lucifer II (2018), Lucifer III (2020), and Lucifer IV (2021), with Johanna obviously being the lead singer in all of those records, plus the keyboardist and sampler on Lucifer I. If you want to have a very good taste of how awesome the music by Lucifer is, you can stream all of their albums on Spotify, or watch all of their breathtaking videos on YouTube including Dreamer, California Son, Bring Me His Head, Leather Demon, Midnight Phantom, their cover versions for The Rattles’ Devil’s On The Loose and Angel Witch’s Loser, and enjoy several amazing concerts like their ass-kicking performances at the Crossroads Festival in Bonn, Germany in 2018 and at Rockpalast in 2018 and in 2019.

Before forming Lucifer, Johanna could be seen in several distinct bands and projects. She was the vocalist for German Symphonic Black Metal band Cryogenic, with whom she recorded their 1996 demo and the 1998 album Celephais; sang for German Black Metal horde Dies Ater on their 1999 album Reign of Tempests, from 1999; formed the Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock band The Oath with her friends Vincent Wager and Linnéa Olsson in 2012, her last band before Lucifer, having recorded their self-titled full-length album in 2014; was part of the Electronic Indie Pop band Informer along with Rayshele Teige, a former employee of Century Media in the United States, in 2010; and was part of Swedish Melodic Black Metal unity Vinterkrig from 1996 until 1997, having recorded with them the demo Härskare över stjärnorna och mina drömmar (which was just released earlier this year).

Not only that, you can also find our beloved vocalist as a guest musician in different bands and projects through the years, those being the female vocals for the songs Marie Louise and Black Wedding, from the 1996 album Leviathan by a German Death Metal band called Ferox; vocals on the songs Now Howls the Beast and Psychic Visions, from the 2017 album Inside the Skull by American Doom Metal act Beastmaker; and vocals on the song Queen Among Rats, from the 2009 album Privilegivm, and on the cover version for Alice In Chains’ hit Them Bones, from the 2010 EP Them Bones / This Inner Soil, both by German Black/Gothic Rock/Metal band Secrets of the Moon. Not only that, Johanna was also the designer, producer and art director in all of the Lucifer’s albums, proving how talented she is. When asked if all her past experiences with the bands that came before Lucifer had an impact on the way she handles the band, she said that she certainly learned that she’s not putting up with ego bullshit and phoniness anymore, and that with Lucifer it’s all about the passion of creating music and enjoying the ride.

Regarding her idols and influences in rock and metal music, Johanna always lists some of the best, most classic vocalists and performers you can think of, including Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant, Ann Wilson, Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith, also saying that she listens to a lot of 70’s classic Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and early Heavy Metal, and that fictional horror, real life horror and the horror in one’s head also have a huge influence in her lyrics. Furthermore, in one of her interviews she was asked to list ten albums which she feels don’t get the proper attention from the media and the fans, and her list was very diverse, including Hard Attack by Dust, Bloodrock U.S.A. by Bloodrock, the self-titled album by Starz, Electric Jewels by April Wine, Straight Up by Badfinger, the self-titled album by Bob Seger, the self-titled album by Journey, Special Forces by 38 Special, Year of The Cat by Al Stuart, and Lucifer III by “you know who”. Johanna also mentioned that Lucifer do not have a specific formula or concept behind their albums, that they simply think of what kind of songs would make people excited, what makes them feel good, and hope that the band doesn’t lose quality or doesn’t get stale with every release.

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In terms of her life on the road with Lucifer, Johanna mentioned that she has already performed hundreds of shows with the band and that each one of those are important in their own way, saying the band plays the same way in front of 20 people in some village or at Helffest in front of over 7,000 people. In addition, when it comes to organizing their setlist, she said that they usually like to start off the set with a mid tempo number to get into the groove and end the set in some sort of sonic eruption, never putting two songs of the same kind in a row (such as two ballads, for example), maintaining an interesting flow to keep the attention of the audience. She also shared an interesting story that happened on the road, when guitarist Martin Nordin ended up playing ping pong with Ace Frehley on the Kiss Kruise where Lucifer played three sets, and also mentioned she would love to play in places such as Australia, New Zealand and South America.

As a prominent woman in the world of rock and metal music, Johanna believes you have to have a little bit of a thick skin if you’re a woman due to the fact the scene has always been a male-dominated one, saying that things got a little better in recent years compared to when she was a teenager as now we can see a lot more bands with girls, but at the same time there are still weird expressions like “female-fronted”. Johana strongly believes gender shouldn’t be a genre, also commenting about how deep that’s within our culture as you get treated differently as a woman in obvious ways, but also in really subtle ways. Johanna also pointed to the fact that there are still too many sexist and nasty comments on social media whenever a woman is part of a rock or metal band, but that fortunately that’s changing. “I felt it necessary for the first time to post, ‘if you’re a homophobe, you’re a sexist, racist, you are not welcome here.’ If you feel like you have to burn your Lucifer album now, please do so. I don’t care. That post went around quite a lot. A lot of people were applauding it, but then there was also all kinds of people going, ‘you suck anyways.’ Because I’m against sexism, racism, and homophobia? I mean, what side are you on then. I’m really shocked at how much racism is out there. But luckily that’s getting talked about too. We’re still a little bit in the middle ages, unfortunately. It can’t go fast enough.”

When asked about the metal scene in her hometown Berlin versus her current home Stockholm, Johanna mentioned that there isn’t a huge difference between those places as the rock and metal community kind of networks around the world, as people in New York, Berlin, Stockholm, London or any other city in the world are connected and know each other through social media, making it a little bit more globalized and organized. She said though that although she used to go out and DJ quite often in Berlin, she doesn’t do that much anymore in Stockholm not because there aren’t enough clubs or because the scene is not big in Sweden, but mainly due to her busy touring schedule as she feels happier with the quietness of her home nowadays after so many weeks on the road. She still misses her DJ years, though, when she used to run a monthly old school Heavy Metal party at the Kill ‘Em All Club in Berlin, which by the way she started together with the same Vincent Wager from The Oath.

Having founded Riding Reaper Records in 2020 alongside her husband and bandmate Nicke Andersson, Johanna commented that some of her advantages of making music today are her wisdom and experience gathered through the years, but also saying that she can’t really compare it to the music industry in the 90’s when she started because she was only part of the underground music scene as a musician. Also, she considers streaming services like Spotify and any social media as necessary evils because they allow the band to stay closely connected to their fanbase and to feel the pulse of what’s up. That connection was actually very important for Lucifer during the pandemic, as Johanna and the boys also had to stay home in isolation for a long period of time without playing any concerts. She mentioned the sales were pretty good, though, probably due to the fact people had more time to listen to music at their homes.

Lastly, when asked about what she considers the most amazing thing in her life, she answered that musically it’s having met Nicke and marrying him because “he is the perfect partner in crime when it comes to music,” also saying that it’s a luxury that they can do what they love the most together, which is recording music and playing live. And if you want to know more about Johanna and her incendiary band Lucifer, there are countless video interviews online such as this one to Metal Insider’s Newsroom, where she talks about Lucifer’s overall sound and other nice-to-know topics; this one where Johanna and Nicke pick the best albums from 1975; this one to Doomed & Stoned in 2018; the ‘How Well Do You Know Your Bandmate’ for Metal Injection; and this one with Darren Paltrowitz (host of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast) where she talks about the influence of Glenn Danzig, getting through the Coronavirus pandemic, future plans and more. As you can see, there’s no reason not to fall in love for Johanna and her Lucifer, succumbing to the dark side to the sound of her unique voice and charisma.

Johanna Sadonis’ Official Instagram
Lucifer’s Official Facebook page
Lucifer’s Official Instagram
Lucifer’s Official Twitter
Lucifer’s Official YouTube channel

“After my initial love affair with classic rock and heavy metal I got heavily into death, doom and black metal at the age of 16 and sang on a variety of demo cassette tapes of local death and black metal bands in Berlin. I had black hair, black clothes, my whole room was black and I got into magic. I worked at an esoteric book shop after school. I was very serious about this all. My mother thought it was just a phase but look at me, not much has changed!” – Johanna Sadonis

Album Review – Ewiniar / Burning the Night (2021)

From a mutual love of dark, moody and melancholic music emerges the debut album by a Melodic Gothic Rock and Metal husband-and-wife unity from Croatia.

From a mutual love of dark, moody and melancholic music emerges the sound of Split, Croatia-based Melodic Gothic Rock/Metal unity Ewiniar,  who has just released their debut effort Burning the Night. Combining female vocals over juddering drums and blistering guitar work to deliver a sonic experience that is all their own, the husband-and-wife duo formed of vocalist Katarina Tramontana and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marin Tramontana explores the broad range of their influences by producing music that lights their inner fire in Burning the Night, all enhanced by the top-of-the-line mixing and mastering by Theodor Borovski at Slaughtered Studio and the stylish artwork by James Hutton Illustration, therefore being highly recommended for admirers of the music by renowned bands the likes of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica, among many others.

As soon as you hit play a doomed atmosphere will embrace your soul in Against the Stream, with Marin delivering classic beats and riffs, and consequently providing Katarina with all she needs to shine on vocals. Not only that, all elements from 80’s Gothic Rock added to their music make things even more mesmerizing. Then blending the whimsical sounds of bands like Tristania, Nightwish and Paradise Lost, the band offers us all Under the Stars, a beautiful creation by the duo showcasing Katarina’s crisp vocal lines amidst the rumbling bass lines and rhythmic beats by Marin, followed by Years of Heaven, another enfolding creation by Ewiniar where Marian has an awesome performance as a one-man music machine, with his riffs and solos walking hand in hand with his ethereal keys. And a serene start to the acoustic guitars by Marin and Katarina’s gorgeous vocals evolves into Mother, presenting a solid sound but lacking the same punch and feeling from the rest of the album.

Adding hints of folk to their doomed Gothic Rock it’s time for the almost medieval ballad Midnight Sun, flowing smoothly until the very end (and all spiced up by a soulful guitar solo by Marin), whereas drinking form the same fountain as Epica, Nightwish and After Forever the duo brings forward Suspiria, with Katarina stealing the spotlight with her stunning vocals. Back to an 80’s goth sonority the couple delivers the melodic Until the End of Time, feeling like the soundtrack to a fantasy movie thanks to the cryptic ambience crafted by Marin; and the second to last blast of their fusion of Gothic Rock and Metal comes in the form of Seekers of the Sense, another stylish, gentle but at the same time dark composition. Lastly, the title-track Burning the Night is even more epic and imposing than its predecessors, with Katarina embellishing the airwaves with her voice while Marin brings thunder to the music with his riffs, beats and keys until the very last second.

Burning the Night might be available in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, but in order to show your true support to such talented couple you should definitely purchase a copy of the album from their own BandCamp page. Also, don’t forget to follow Katarina and Marin on Facebook and on Instagram for news, more of their music and other nice-to-know details about them, immersing yourself in the Gothic and melodic world of Ewiniar. Katarina and Marin deserve our full appreciation and respect for putting together such beautiful and embracing album all by themselves, and let’s hope that their aforementioned mutual love for dark music never dies and that they keep bringing forth an array of albums as good as their debut opus in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: Under the Stars, Suspiria and Burning the Night.

Worst moments of the album: Mother.

Released in 2021 Independent

Track listing
1. Against the Stream 4:43
2. Under the Stars 4:30
3. Years of Heaven 5:23
4. Mother 5:31
5. Midnight Sun 6:29
6. Suspiria 5:11
7. Until the End of Time 5:02
8. Seekers of the Sense 4:57
9. Burning the Night 5:09

Band members
Katarina Tramontana – vocals
Marin Tramontana – vocals, all instruments

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”

Metal Chick of the Month – Heike Langhans

heike01

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

Metal Chick of the Month – Cammie Gilbert

Holding on to everything you say… Cause’ your words they paint a picture of me…

In a very difficult year where the world sadly witnessed an increase in violence and racism against black people, and of course the more-than-necessary rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in their fight for freedom, liberation and justice, we at The Headbanging Moose want to share with all of you our humble tribute to another black woman who has been brilliantly fighting all that racism and showing to the world black women have their place in heavy music, just like other rock and metal divas who have already been honored here on our webzine like Melissa Bonny, Militia Vox, Alexis Brown, Thalìa Bellazecca and Kayla Dixon. I’m talking about the multi-talented and gorgeous vocalist and songwriter Cammie Gilbert, the stunning frontwoman for American Progressive Rock and Metal act Oceans of Slumber, a band that has already been labeled by many as “Opeth or Katatonia with female vocals”, but that in my opinion managed to craft their own sound and style, embellishing the airwaves with their delicate but at the same time scorching creations.

Born on October 8, 1987 in Shepherd, a city located in San Jacinto County, Texas, in the United States, Cammie joined Houston, Texas-based Oceans of Slumber at the age of 27, more specifically in the year of 2014 after the departure of the band’s former vocalist Ronnie Allen, who had been with the band since their inception in 2011. Cammie, who’s by the way on a solid and healthy relationship with the band’s founder, drummer and pianist Dobber Beverly, the sole reminiscent of their original lineup, became the primary songwriter for the group after joining, having already released with Oceans of Slumber the EP Blue, in 2015, followed by the full-length albums Winter (2016), The Banished Heart (2018) and more recently Oceans of Slumber (2020), all available for a full listen on Spotify. You can enjoy tons of amazing official videos of Cammie and Oceans of Slumber kicking some serious ass on their YouTube channel, including the songs The Decay Of Disregard, Pray for Fire, The Colors of Grace, The Adorned Fathomless Creation, Winter, To the Sea (A Tolling of the Bells), The Banished Heart, Strange Fruit, Suffer The Last Bridge, a cover version for Candlemass’ Solitude, an acoustic version for Turpentine, and a live in the studio version for the song This Road.

Currently comprised of the aforementioned Cammie and Dobber together with keyboardist Mat V. Aleman and newcomers Jessie Santos and Alexander Lucian on the guitars and Semir Ozerkan on bass, Cammie said that the band’s former guitarists Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras and bassist Keegan Kelly wanted to explore different influences and styles which never fit with what Oceans of Slumber were doing at that time, the kind of tension that’s absolutely normal, but she also said there were tensions as soon as she got into the band, resulting in a split between the former members not wanting to be “female fronted”. “There is a certain metal crowd that thinks its a gimmick. I’m not growling, I just sing clean and am emotional, but a lot of male singers have that emotion too. There’s just stigmas that make anything a woman does, the wrong thing for metal. We had a couple of those old school attitudes and transition wasn’t their strong suite,” mentioned Cammie in one of her interviews.

Apart from her years with Oceans of Slumber, Cammie is also the lead singer for a Houston, Texas-based project called Genoa Band together with Dobber and guitarist Christian Larson, another branch from Oceans of Slumber’s musical tree drawing upon the lyrical and atmospheric production of bands and artists like Nick Cave, Portishead and This Mortal Coil while still sounding heavy but more intimate, playing a fusion of styles such as Southern, Gothic and Dark Rock. However, there’s nothing officially released by the band and no news since mid-2019 when they announced their first single Paraffin was almost ready to be released, making me think if they gave up the idea of moving forward with the project due to everything that has been going on with Oceans of Slumber, including the recording and release of their 2020 self-titled album. You can also find Cammie as a very special guest in the 2020 album Transitus, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock project Ayreon, playing the part of Abby throughout the entire album. “We met a friend of Arjen Lucassen over in the UK and he was interviewing us and asked if there was anything that we wanted to tell Arjen. And so Dobber is like, ‘Yeah, if he could get any of us on an album, we’re big fans, and if you could have him listen to The Banished Heart, that’d be great.’ And so he followed through with that request. Shortly after that Arjen wrote that he loved The Banished Heart and he would love to work with me someday. And we were like, ‘Yeah, of course that’d be great.’ And then maybe a couple more months after that, it was, ‘You want to be on the album?’ And I peed my pants,” commented Cammie about her collaboration with one of her idols in heavy music.

When asked to make a list of the top 10 albums that changed her life, Cammie listed a collection of albums that usually occupy a dark corner of her mind where often emotions outweigh the heaviness of the music, including 40 Watt Sun’s 2011 EP The Inside Room, Agnes Obel’s 2013 album Aventine, Alice In Chains’ 1992 album Dirt (which by the way reminds her why she loves the kind of music that she makes), Anathema’s 2012 album Weather Systems, Eivør’s 2015 album Slør, Evergrey’s 2016 album The Storm Within, Katatonia’s 2016 album The Fall Of Hearts, Swallow The Sun’s 2015 triple album Songs From The North I, II & III, Agents Of Oblivion’s 2000 self-titled album, and last but not least, Type O Negative’s 1996 masterpiece October Rust. “I love Peter Steele. We love Type O Negative, there’s  just nothing like it. We go through a lot of his albums but that’s the main one for me. I love Cinnamon Girl, Be My Druidess and also Wolf Moon. Dobber saw them live once. Super jealous. I’ve just had to make up for it by reading the autobiography, and he buys everything he can as far as media regarding the band. It’s an experience to go through their songs. He [Peter Steele] is such a clever lyricist. It’s the funniest kind of music I feel like I listen to. It brings up my energy and makes me happy,” commented our talented vocalist about the unparalleled work by Mr. Peter Steele (R.I.P.).

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In one of her interviews, when questioned about the lack of more black women in heavy music, Cammie said that it’s due to a multitude of reasons, including sexist comments saying that her voice would fit pop or hip hop music much better than metal, and that clean singing that isn’t symphonic is connotated to sounding pop, which might influence the decision of a black woman to move towards a soul, gospel, R&B or blues direction. Cammie herself was basically told to sing in hip hop or pop and to never go anywhere near rock and metal, but no one ever told her why except for the preconceptions already mentioned. “And what Dobber heard in my voice and what he heard from me… I’m a very melancholy person. I’m in and out of bouts of depression and what I identify with metal and metal-adjacent music is, what I identify with the music that I find, if it makes me, if I’m already sad and it makes me sadder then I’m like, “This is going on a playlist.” And I like things that give me these, not give me these dark feelings, but validate my dark feelings, because I feel like that helps me release them,” said Cammie, also saying that she feels that’s changing as there are more and more alternative black and black metalhead females out there. For instance, her own parents were extremely religious, not allowing her to listen to extreme styles like Death Metal or Grindcore, but that’s different now as younger black kids and people in general can have access to all types of metal music through their phones, for example.

When questioned about the Black Lives Matter movement, racism and if metal has a problem with racism, she said that racism is everywhere, and that it’s something more people have to unlearn than they realize, especially in America. Despite being fortunate enough to not experience too many issues related to racism since joining Oceans of Slumber, she stated that she can no longer approach this subject without a multitude of emotions overtaking her resolve, nor keep the angry tears from welling up and pouring out of her eyes when black senators, mayors, celebrities and brave people online share their frustrations over America’s shortcomings. She feels like her history and the entire country are broken, with George Floyd’s death being a tipping point or a catalyst for a new generation to finally say enough is enough due to the undeniable ruthlessness in which his life was taken. “When you think about the history of America, there’s very little that’s good for anyone who isn’t white. That’s just the truth. It leaves a hollow feeling in your chest taking this information in from so many different outlets. You realize this country isn’t fixing something, it’s letting something go,” complemented Cammie about such delicate matter, also saying that in the days ahead we face the challenge of putting these emotions into goal-focused actions.

Lastly, always evolving as a vocalist and always ready to experiment with her music, Cammie is more than sure Oceans of Slumber are already starting to break out of the Progressive Rock and Metal scene, letting her inspirations guide her music and warning people who already like the band that they’ll have to let go of any expectations for what comes next, leaving us curious to see what the future holds for her and for Oceans of Slumber. Furthermore, as the fantastic vocalist  that she is, Cammie surely misses the stage and performing live to the band’s fans and to newcomers to their progressive world, and they’re already thinking of ways of getting back onstage in Houston obeying all recommended protocols of social distancing to keep everyone safe, including obviously all band members. And, of course, all of us fans of a good fusion of progressiveness, emotions and heavy music can’t wait to see Cammie back to where she belongs, mesmerizing us all with her powerful voice and showing us all black girls can and will forever rock no matter what.

Cammie Gilbert’s Official Instagram
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Facebook page
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Instagram
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Twitter
Oceans of Slumber’s Official YouTube channel

“I am a black woman in America and I am the great, great granddaughter of slaves. Memories upheld only in photographs; as a little girl I would try to imagine what their lives were like. But as it goes, reality unravelled the mystery behind my childish imagination. Now when I see old photos in civil war documentaries, I see their faces. When I watch the grainy black and white footage depicting the Jim Crow era, I see their faces. When I watch the films of the marches inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., I see their faces. And now when I sign into social media and see protestors getting tear-gassed, I see their faces, only now mine is there too.” – Cammie Gilbert

Album Review – Darzamat / A Philosopher at the End of the Universe (2020)

Let one of the best Polish metal bands of all time take you on a one-way journey to the end of the universe with their highly anticipated fifth full-length opus, showcasing their unique fusion of heavy music, philosophy and witchcraft.

It might have taken excruciating 11 years for Katowice, Poland-based Symphonic Black/Gothic Metal outfit Darzamat to stun us all once again with their fusion of heavy music, philosophy and witchcraft, but fortunately the wait is finally over with the release of the beautifully titled A Philosopher at the End of the Universe, the fifth full-length album in the career of such distinguished band that has been worshiped by fans from all over the world since their inception in the distant year of 1995. Produced, mixed and mastered at Gorycki & Sznyterman Studio in Krakow, Poland by Jarosław “Jaro” Baran, one of the most successful Polish music producers of all time, together with Grzegorz Sznyterman, A Philosopher at the End of the Universe is a concept album picking up the story right where its predecessor Solfernus’ Path, released in 2009, left off, including a fragment of a story straight from a classic Gothic novel written by the band’s vocalist and mastermind Rafał “Flauros” Góral together with his poet friend, prose writer and linguist Jesion Kowal, all of course spiced up by the darkly enthralling vocals by frontwoman Agnieszka “Nera” Górecka, the guitars by Chris, the bass by Markus and the drums by session musicians Icanraz and Kamil Bagiński.

An atmospheric, cryptic intro title Reminiscence opens our minds to the dark and visceral music blasted by Darzamat in the title-track A Philosopher at the End of the Universe, where the mesmerizing vocals by Nera make a beautiful paradox with the harsh gnarls by Flauros while Chris embellishes the airwaves with his melodious riffs and solos. Then we have Running in the Dark, spearheaded by the thunderous bass by Markus and blending Gothic Rock and Metal with modern-day Rock N’ Roll while acid poetry flows from Flauros’ demonic roars (“I take upon my shoulders the weight of the world / Blood and ugliness, bitterness and pain / Death, mourning, sadness and deep shadow / Still the world is hard to accept”), followed by Thoughts to Weigh on Farewell Day, starting in a truly menacing way thanks to the Stygian guitar lines by Chris and the infernal growling by Flauros and evolving into a Symphonic and Progressive Gothic Metal feast for admirers of the genre. And Nera once again captivates our senses with her unique voice in The Tearful Game, while the music remains as ethereal and enfolding as possible, or in other words, a metal version of a witchcraft ritual, also showcasing intricate and fierce beats from start to finish.

Investing in a more aggressive but still very atmospheric sonority, the band fires a lesson in contemporary Gothic Metal entitled The Sleeping Prophet, where the lyrics are once again stunningly declaimed by Nera (“The icon of Man on the monument of the world I am / Mors rules the land on the other side of darkness / The serpent is arisen in my breast / I curse and feel when God deserts me”), whereas in Clouds Clouds Darkening All the band sounds like a hypnotizing hybrid of Moonspell and Type O Negative, with all scorching riffs and fast-paced beats providing Flauros and Nera all they need to shine with their “darkness and light” vocal duet. Their second to last ode to obscurity, The Great Blaze, begins in a sexy and heavy manner with Nera distilling her Medusa-inspired vocals while Chris slashes his guitar in great fashion, alternating between somber moments and sheer melancholy, before Darzamat puts a climatic ending to the album with The Kaleidoscope of Retreat, highly inspired by the Gothic movement from the 80’s and 90’s, and with a huge focus on Nera’s enfolding vocal lines, therefore leaving us eager for more of the music by this new era of one of the best Polish metal bands of all time.

I truly hope Darzamat do not take another decade to release a new album, but as we never know what musicians like Flauros and Nera have in mind and what direction they want to take in their careers, let’s enjoy the moment and appreciate the first-class fusion of Symphonic Black and Gothic Metal from A Philosopher at the End of the Universe by streaming the album in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course by purchasing it from Daramat’s own BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Those Polish metallers are also waiting for you on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, ready to invite you to their coven and to take you on a melodic and Gothic journey to the end of the universe with their breathtaking new album, consequently (and hopefully) pointing to a busy and prolific period for the band in the coming years.

Best moments of the album: A Philosopher at the End of the Universe, The Sleeping Prophet and Clouds Clouds Darkening All.

Worst moments of the album: Thoughts to Weigh on Farewell Day.

Released in 2020 TuneCore/Szataniec

Track listing
1. Reminiscence 1:41
2. A Philosopher at the End of the Universe 4:28
3. Running in the Dark 4:30
4. Thoughts to Weigh on Farewell Day 4:17
5. The Tearful Game 5:26
6. The Sleeping Prophet 3:54
7. Clouds Clouds Darkening All 4:39
8. The Great Blaze 4:15
9. The Kaleidoscope of Retreat 5:43

Band members
Nera – vocals
Flauros – vocals
Chris – guitars
Markus – bass
Jacek Gut – drums (live)

Guest musicians
Icanraz – drums (session)
Kamil Bagiński – drums (session)

Album Review – Invernoir / The Void and the Unbearable Loss (2020)

Succumb to the fusion of the Doom, Death and Gothic Metal sounds found in the first full-length opus by an Italian act that perfectly represents the coldness of anguish and pain.

Born from the desire to revive the fusion of Doom, Death and Gothic Metal sounds of the 90’s taking inspiration from the best albums of bands like My Dying Bride, Anathema, Katatonia and Paradise Lost, Rome, Italy-based project Invernoir is cold and decadence, the anguish due to the awareness of not having a goal, the lack of answers, apathy and pain. Comprised of Alessandro Sforza (Ars Onirica) on harsh vocals, guitars, drum programming and cymbals, Lorenzo Carlini (Black Therapy) on clean vocals and guitars, and Valerio Lippera (Lykaion) on bass, Invernoir have been making a name for themselves since their inception in 2016, having already played alongside amazing bands such as Candlemass, Ahab, Skepticism, Shores of Null, Naga and Weeping Silence, and now two years after their debut four-track EP Mourn this dark and talented Italian triumvirate (now a quartet with the recent addition of drummer Flavio Castagnoli to their lineup, by the way) returns with the bold and atmospheric The Void and the Unbearable Loss, not only their first ever full-length effort, but an album that will surely carve the word “doom” in the blackened hearts of fans of the genre from all over the world.

It’s a grey, rainy and bleak day, the perfect ambience for Invernoir to captivate our senses with the title-track The Void and The Unbearable Loss, slowly growing in intensity until their sluggish beats and piercing guitars permeate the air for our total delight, followed by The Path, sounding less doomed and a lot more inclined to Gothic Metal than its predecessor. Furthermore, Alessandro and Lorenzo are once again precise with their riffs while alternating between their anguished roars and gloomy clean vocals, while Valerio blasts his bass with tons of groove. Then get ready for a somber and heavy-as-hell hybrid of traditional Doom Metal with Blackened Doom and Gothic Metal entitled House of Debris, perfect for breaking your neck headbanging in solitude while Alessandro screams like a demonic entity. And more melancholy in the form of first-class Doom Metal is offered by Invernoir in Suspended Alive, showcasing truly deep and obscure lyrics (“The purest form of pain / I saw it before it was born / The purest form of pain / A frame / Of what it was / And yet not”), smashing drums and endless agony flowing from their riffs.

Investing in a much more atmospheric and melodious sound, with Lorenzo taking the lead with his passionate clean vocals, Cast Away is another dense and introspective fusion of Melodic Doom Metal and Gothic Rock by this talented Italian trio, and they continue their downward spiral into madness and obscurity with the hammering Doom Metal feast titled The Burden, displaying a great job done by all three band members with their stringed weapons, therefore offering both Alessandro and Lorenzo all they need to sing and gnarl in anger. After such dense sonority, a strident riff kicks off the brutal, slow-paced At Night, presenting the band’s most damned side and reminding me of some of the creations by the iconic Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride in what’s probably their rawest and most visceral of all songs, before they come ripping with one more of their Stygian voyages through the realms of gothic and doom in The Loneliest, where Lorenzo is spot-on with his clean vocals by generating an amazing paradox with the harsh growls by Alessandro, always supported by the minimalist, thunderous bass by Valerio. Put differently, they couldn’t have ended the album in a more beautiful way.

This fantastic and somber gem of Italian gothic and doom can be fully appreciated on YouTube and on Spotify, and if you’re curious to know more about the guys from Invernoir, their music and their plans for the future you can start following them on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course purchase The Void and the Unbearable Loss from their own BandCamp page, from Funere’s BandCamp page or from the BadMoodMan Music’s BandCamp page, as well as from Apple Music, Amazon and Discogs. As aforementioned, the new album by Invernoir is highly recommended for lovers of the melancholy blasted by the titans of the genre like My Dying Bride and Katatonia, proving once again why Italy has become (and will always be) a reference in underground doom.

Best moments of the album: Suspended Alive and Cast Away.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Funere/BadMoodMan Music

Track listing
1. The Void and The Unbearable Loss 7:03
2. The Path 7:02
3. House of Debris 5:57
4. Suspended Alive 5:37
5. Cast Away 7:09
6. The Burden 5:28
7. At Night 6:08
8. The Loneliest 7:00

Band members
Alessandro Sforza – harsh vocals, guitars, drum programming, cymbals
Lorenzo Carlini – clean vocals, guitars
Valerio Lippera – bass

Album Review – Memoira / Carnival of Creation (2020)

Combining a symphonic atmosphere with beautiful female vocals, this Finnish Gothic Metal outfit is back after a long hiatus with their third (and amazing) full-length album.

Known for their melancholic melodies and powerful guitar riffs, while combining a symphonic atmosphere with beautiful female vocals, Pori/Jyväskylä, Finland-based Symphonic Gothic Metal act Memoira is back after a long hiatus with their third full-length album, entitled Carnival Of Creation, the follow-up to their 2008 self-titled debut album and to their 2013 release Memories, Tragedies, Masquerades. Featuring a dark and melancholic artwork by Finnish artist Niina Varheenmaa, Carnival of Creation is highly recommended for fans of the music by Kamelot, Nightwish and Delain, among others, showcasing all the passion for the darkest and most delicate side of metal by founding members Jani Puusa on the guitars and Lassi Nuolivaara on keyboards and piano, together with newcomers Annika Jalkanen (For Selena and Sin, Blood Region) on vocals, Hannu Lindholm (The Howl) on the guitars, Niko Laaksonen (Randy Reckless, Blowtorch, Rorschach) on bass and Matti Virtanen (Dark Tone Company, Concrete Words, Anomaly) on drums.

And the gentle piano notes by Lassi intertwined with the enfolding voice by Annika set the tone in the charming opening track Dawn of Time, a very pleasant fusion of Gothic Metal and modern Hard Rock to properly kick things off in Carnival of Creation, followed by the title-track Carnival of Creation, bringing forward circus-inspired keys, potent beats by Matti and a strong symphonic vibe, with the band’s guitar duo Jani and Hannu keeping the ambience as dense and electrifying as possible through their riffs. Then get ready for over six minutes of adrenaline and groove in Queen Element, where sheer poetry flows from Annika’s mesmerizing vocals (“First rays of the sun awake the sleeping land / The roots of the bitter earth shall guide her hand / She pours the wine, sweet taste of divine”) while Niko pounds his bass in great fashion accompanied by the kick-ass drums by Matti; whereas sounding like a symphonic and delicate 80’s-inspired version of the Melodic Metal played by Stratovarius, Hunter’s Moon will please all fans of Scandinavian metal, with Lassi being in absolute sync with Niko and Matti, therefore generating a bold and gripping atmosphere.

Dark Passenger is an embracing metal waltz by Memoira that will penetrate deep inside your soul, with Annika once again stealing the spotlight with her dark and gentle vocals while her bandmates provide her a beautiful wall of sounds perfect for her to shine even brighter; and clearly inspired by the trademark sonority by Nightwish, Shooting Star reminds me of one of their greatest classics “Nemo”, with Niko bringing the groove with his rumbling bass. Put differently, it couldn’t have sounded more pleasant nor more atmospheric, which is also the case in Snowglobe, another gentle composition by Memoira with Annika taking the lead once again accompanied by the melancholic and smooth piano notes by Lassi, resulting in a lecture in Gothic Rock and Metal made in Finland. Last but not least, it’s time for a thrilling fusion of Gothic and Symphonic Metal in Crimson Bride Symphony, where all band member are on absolute fire, especially Jani and Hannu with their precise riffage, while Annika invites us all to dance to Memoira’s top-of-the-line music.

In a nutshell, Carnival of Creation, which is available for a full listen on Spotify, will undoubtedly take Memoira back to the position they deserve in the world of heavy music as one of the most interesting and talented bands from the Finnish Gothic scene, and if you want to show your support to such amazing band from the land of ice and snow you should follow them on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and of course grab your copy of the album from their own webstore, from the Inverse Store, from Apple Music or from Amazon. Memoira seem to be back for good, inviting us all to join them in their dark and atmospheric carnival of Symphonic Gothic Metal, with their new album pointing to a bright and thrilling future ahead of those skillful Finnish rockers.

Best moments of the album: Dawn of Time, Queen Element and Crimson Bride Symphony.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Dawn of Time 5:52
2. Carnival of Creation 5:54
3. Queen Element 6:12
4. Hunter’s Moon 5:15
5. Dark Passenger 6:16
6. Shooting Star 5:45
7. Snowglobe 6:50
8. Crimson Bride Symphony 7:50

Band members
Annika Jalkanen – vocals
Jani Puusa – guitar
Hannu Lindholm – guitar
Lassi Nuolivaara – keyboards, piano
Niko Laaksonen – bass
Matti Virtanen – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”