Metal Chick of the Month – Tatiana Shmayluk

Booyakah, Tatiana!

As The Headbanging Moose is celebrating nine years of existence this month of October, there’s nothing better than offering the first slice of our cake to a woman who’s undoubtedly the most important name of all time from the Ukrainian rock and metal scene, and I would dare to say even from the entire music scene in Ukraine. Born on March 15, 1987 in Horlivka, or Gorlovka, a city located in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, she’s a singer and songwriter better known as the frontwoman for Groove Metal/Metalcore act Jinjer since 2010, kicking some serious ass wherever she goes armed with both her furious roars and mesmerizing clean vocals. I’m talking about the one and only Tatiana Shmayluk, a multi-talented and humble woman who’s also a role model to countless girls out there who want to find in heavy music a way to express all of their feelings, hopes and frustrations, and I’m sure you’ll get addicted to her vocals and her music after reading this tribute to her.

Long before becoming the face of Jinjer, Tatiana was already singing and screaming according to her own mother, always listening to Russian and Ukrainian pop songs she heard on the radio. “My mother told me I started screaming when I was a very little girl. I screamed so loud I had a hernia in my belly.” Furthermore, one of her favorite songs from her childhood was the 1989 dance song Lambada, by French-Brazilian group Kaoma, which she mentioned she still sings along to it with great joy, although she doesn’t know Portuguese. She then began singing more seriously at the age of eight, taking vocal lessons for a couple of months and making her onstage debut that year in a concert hall with a choir. “The songs were accompanied with dancing. I was very nervous, and of course I screwed it up because of the dancing. So I said, ‘Never again.’ I cannot do synchronic dancing with someone else. I need to do it alone so I can control the whole thing,” commented Tatiana, who also said that it was her older brother, who was a guitar player to a Doom Metal band, who introduced her to metal music, more specifically to Aria, the long-running Moscow metal outfit hailed as the “Iron Maiden of Russia.”

Proudly carrying the flag of modern-day metal music to all four corner of the earth, Jinjer were formed back in 2008 in Donetsk, but the band considers their official start with the addition of Tatiana and guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov in 2010. None of the founding members remain with the band, with the current lineup being comprised of the aforementioned Tatiana on vocals and Roman on the guitars, together with Eugene Abdukhanov on bass and Vladislav Ulasevish on drums. Influenced by countless renewned acts the likes of Opeth, Guano Apes, Slayer, Death, Pantera, Anathema, Lamb of God, Gojira and Twelve Foot Ninja, as well as groups across the spectrum of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, reggae, and hip-hop, such as Cypress Hill and House of Pain, the band has already released four studio albums in their career, those being their 2014 debut Cloud Factory, their 2016 sophomore album King of Everything, and more recently their 2019 opus Macro and their 2021 critically acclaimed album Wallflowers, all of which have reached number one in their native Ukraine, while also seeing a total of 16 singles, six of which reached the top of the Ukrainian charts and one of which, Pisces, became a global hit and has to date sold over 20 million copies. In addition, they’ve also released three EP’s, those being Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (2009), Inhale, Do Not Breathe (2012) and Micro (2019), and the 2020 live album Alive in Melbourne. You can enjoy several of their best compositions on YouTube, such as Vortex, Judgement (& Punishment), Wallflower, Home Back, Sit Stay Roll Over, and Who Is Gonna Be The One, as well as their full ass-kicking performance live at Resurrection Fest in Viveiro, Spain, in 2018, among many, many other awesome videos, and don’t forget to also stream their full discography on Spotify.

Unfortunately, not long after the ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian military, anti-government protestors and pro-Russian rebels began in 2014, Tatiana and her bandmates had to escape Donetsk, moving to a suburb near the city of Lviv around 800 miles away, not far from the Polish border. “”But we got bored there because it’s a city for tourists,” explained Tatiana. “We rented a house but it was impossible to live there because there were problems with water, with electricity, heating. So that’s why we moved to a more civilized place.” Furthermore, when asked about what makes Jinjer uniquely Ukrainian, she said that because the band comes from a land where kindness equals weakness, a tough country for everyone including their parents, especially in the 90’s, the band members became really grind and tough. For instance, she mentioned that Ukrainians don’t go to a doctor if something hurts, for example, enduring the pain until the end. That’s one of the reasons why the band tries to never cancel any of their concerts and tours, even if it’s impossible to play, showing how strong and determined they are.

Apart from her undisputed career with Jinjer, you can also find Tatiana as a guest vocalist in an array of distinct albums and songs, including the songs Through the Never (I Will Return) and Horror of Daniel Wagner, from the 2022 album Horror of Daniel Wagner, by Ukrainian Heavy/Power Metal band Morton; the song Find My Way, released in 2022 by American Modern Metal band Lions At The Gate; the song Over and Out, released in 2021 by Australian Heavy Rock band Twelve Foot Ninja; and my favorite of all those tracks, the pulverizing Hello Death, from the 2022 album Cancer Culture, released by Polish Death/Groove Metal act Decapitated. Not only that, if you pay good attention to Jinjer’s song Judgment (& Punishment) you’ll notice several elements from reggae added to the band’s extreme music, and that’s something that comes from Tatiana as she was a part of a band that played reggae, ska, ska-punk and funk before Jinjer, playing several cover songs and singing in Ukrainian, Russian and English. “I was a huge fan of reggae. I wore dreadlocks and I was all about Rastafari,” commented Tatiana, who also said that, even being a huge reggae fan, she doesn’t smoke weed simply because she doesn’t like it.

Currently living in Los Angeles, California and spending as much time as possible on tour, having closed 2021 with over 70 concerts including many summer festivals, a short tour of mainland Europe and a two-month North American tour, Tatiana obviously misses her homeland, her family and friends, although she finds the region’s lingering Soviet attitudes unappealing, with the remnants of hardline communism surrounding everyone there. While she was still living in Ukraine, she said that “I was too young to remember life in Soviet Union, but the spirit of Soviet Union is still here. I’m living in an apartment built maybe 40 years ago, and my parents live in such an apartment, as well. All our shops and supermarkets are situated in buildings built then. So it is still like Soviet Union. And there are a lot of people who still have Soviet Union in their heads and their minds.” However, Tatiana mentioned she doesn’t feel safe when on tour it doesn’t matter which country she’s visiting, not only in Ukraine, saying she’s always afraid of going anywhere by herself.

In one of her interviews, Tatiana said it’s a surprise to her that people are still impressed that women can scream, mentioning for example female-fronted German thrash metallers Holy Moses, who she got to know when she was an 18-year old girl in Ukraine, and saying that despite the fact bands like Jinjer might impress the younger generations, the older generations have always known what women can do in rock and metal music. “Sometimes I’m annoyed, but then you say, ‘OK, well, I didn’t see a hummingbird until I was 35 years old.’ It’s always a right time to discover new stuff. It’s great that screaming women are a phenomenon.” She also said it’s incredible to know she’s an inspiration for many young women mainly because they don’t know she’s in fact a very shy person, also sensitive, fragile and easy to be offended, or in her own words, she’s not better than anyone, complementing by saying she’s just a performer when she’s on stage. “Of course there is some true shit, but I don’t move my head 24/7 and I don’t scream all the time. Well, I scream every night. But not every morning.” Furthermore, you can learn a little more about how Tatiana learned to scream by clicking HERE, from first hearing Otep to screaming Mudvayne lyrics, to the dominant force she is today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As any other metalhead in the world, Tatiana has a lot of idols and influences in her life, in her vocal style, in the way she writes the music for Jinjer and so on, but following those artists wasn’t easy at all when she was a young girl due to the aforementioned impact of the Soviet Union over Ukraine at that time. “Metal wasn’t accessible for me. Where I grew up in Donetsk, not many worldwide metal artists would come. They’d go to the capital, and it was 700km and 12 hours on the train. I didn’t have money because I was a teenager and my mom was strict; she didn’t give me much pocket money, although that stimulated me to earn it myself, for which I’m really grateful to her. My parents wouldn’t have let me out of the town, but that was for the best too. It made me want to play my own music and form my own band.” As mentioned, her brother was the one who got her into metal (although he stopped listening to heavy music when he grew up), but before that she used to listen to a lot of rock music, grunge and punk especially after the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991, as MTV hit the Ukrainian airwaves and she began listening to bands like Nirvana and The Offspring. She then found the music by Otep, and got addicted to the vocals by the iconic Otep Shamaya. “I think I was 15 when I heard Otep the first time,” said Tatiana in one of her interviews. “I said, ‘This dude is so cool!’ And my friend said, ‘This is a girl!’ I was like, ‘Jesus fucking Christ!’ This is the first girl I am hearing do this. I was shocked, and I wanted to shock people like her.”

Being a rock and metal artist in Ukraine wasn’t easy at all, taking Tatiana and the rest of the band around five years just to cross the Ukrainian border and play in Romania, and even longer to reach other European countries and the United States, but fortunately everything seems to be working for Jinjer now, with the band organically growing in the worldwide scene and gaining more and more respect from fans from all four corners of the earth. As expected, Tatiana has some important complaints about the Ukrainian metal scene, saying that most Ukrainian bands stick to playing in Ukraine or Russia, and that they don’t usually sing in English, the main reason why they just play in their motherland. “I was always inspired by western music culture in jazz, blues and then metal. I always had this love for English speaking music, even pop music; Britney Spears is one of my biggest idols! People can understand it easily and for me, it was always about spreading my own message through a language that is more available for people all around the world of different countries. That’s why we chose to sing in English and that’s how we made our own path.” Another major issue in Ukraine according to her is the post-U.S.S.R. thinking and mindset, where you’re not accepted if you’re different, as for example tattoos (and we all know she has plenty) are not acceptable for men nor women in her homeland.

However, as you might probably know, Ukraine is suffering with the Russian invasion that started back in February this year, and that has been hitting the band hard in their hearts and minds since then. In March 2022, it was reported that Jinjer had “paused” their career to focus on relief efforts in Ukraine after the war began. Right after that, in June 2022, Jinjer announced that they received permission from the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to leave Ukraine and tour as ambassadors of the nation to raise funds and awareness. “We are very thankful to our Ministry Of Culture for the Ukraine who gave us this opportunity to do what we love to do, and play all the festivals we have announced. We’re using every festival to raise funds and spread awareness about the real war that is happening in the 21st century, which is crazy. It’s hard to believe, but this is the harsh reality. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time we are also full of hope that soon it is all going be over. We are spreading positivity and hope, and we are dreaming about peace. I hope that no other European or world country ever experiences the same as the Ukraine,” commented Tatiana, also saying she has no idea when Jinjer will be able to play in Ukraine again, and that the band will never stop fighting. Moreover, in their most recent releases there are lyrics addressing the war in Donbas and its effects on their home region of Donetsk, and you can also find tons of amazing interviews with Tatiana and the boys talking about the war in Ukraine, just like this one conducted by Loudwire.

Regarding her relationship with social media, Tatiana said that due to her explosive nature she usually replies back to anyone that messages her, it doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or negative comment, saying she “enjoys” replying back to internet trolls because she’s easy to piss off. “Sometimes it’s just overwhelming. I feel like if I let it go, I will let them continue to do this shit again and again. It’s like I give them unspoken permission,” commented our stunning diva, also saying most of the feedback she gets online is actually positive. In addition, one of her favorite ways of interacting with her fans is to customize shirts she receives from them before a show and wear them onstage the same night. “Most of the time, these shirts are very personal. For example, yesterday I was given a shirt — it has a huge ape giving a middle finger and it says something like, ‘Humans destroy everything.’ It’s so related to our song Ape. They will see me wear it on the stage and it is a huge pleaser. They get double joy. I love all the things they bring to me at meet and greet. They are so sweet,” said Tatiana, complementing by saying that some of those fans are very shy and don’t want to talk a lot, being very happy with just an autograph and a photo.

Our unstoppable frontwoman also said that, in an effort to improve her own standing with Mother Nature, she tried to be a vegan for three years, but she went back to eating meat in the middle of a tour because she was starving. She said she still tries to be moderate in consuming meat, and that she doesn’t drink milk, though, revealing her own inner conflict. “I still try being vegan, but it’s really hard for me because I was raised in a family that was not very rich,” she explained. “We could not afford eating meat very often. So when I stopped eating meat, I realized that I loved meat a lot. When I smell meat, it drives me crazy. Something inside of me forgets about animals, suffering, health, environment, and I just want a good piece of meat.” You can get to know more about Tatiana by listening to our growler answering 10 questions asked by Metalshop TV (volume 1 and volume 2), as well as other interviews online such as Tatiana and her bandmates answering the most asked questions on the Internet about Jinjer. Lastly, just like several people out there (including myself), Tatiana also believes something went wrong in our evolution, saying mankind went wrong, and that although we are so small on this earth we act like we are gods, which makes her really sad. She’s trying to learn how to be happy, how to find the happiness inside, and to appreciate her life. “That’s my biggest ambition, to be happy and find inner peace, and for there to be justice for Ukraine.”

Tatiana Shmayluk’s Official Facebook page
Tatiana Shmayluk’s Official Instagram
Tatiana Shmayluk’s Official Twitter
Jinjer’s Official Facebook page
Jinjer’s Official VKontakte
Jinjer’s Official Instagram
Jinjer’s Official YouTube channel
Jinjer’s Official Twitter

“You know what, I’m losing my faith in music. I don’t feel like I can express myself enough to say what I really feel because there are no words to explain. So, I feel like I should give up… but then something makes me go further.” – Tatiana Shmayluk

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 – Kabbalah / The Omen (2021)

Succumb to the dark side to the sound of the Occult Rock with a subtle Spanish folk and western vibe by this talented coven, looming in the dark, esoteric realms of witchcraft.

Hailing from Pamplona, Spain, Occult Rock all-female trio Kabbalah was formed on the ashes of local outfit Las Culebras, looming in the dark, esoteric realms of witchcraft and closed door arts while starting a prolific cycle of music by self-releasing three EP’s, those being Kabbalah, Primitive Stone and Revelations, between 2013 and 2016, progressing to their 2017 debut album Spectral Ascent. Now in 2021 it’s time for Alba DDU (vocals, guitar), Marga Malaria (vocals, bass) and Carmen Espejo (vocals, drums) to come back to life with their sophomore full-length opus entitled The Omen, where their 70’s rock influences are sprinkled with a subtle Spanish folk and western vibe while keeping the heaviness intact. In The Omen, Kabbalah cultivate their distinctive cross of influences moving between heavy riffs, harmonized vocals and killer songwriting, with its cover art, referencing the Kutná Hora ossuary located in the Czech Republic, welcoming listeners to the ill-fated cosmos portrayed in the album.

Those Spanish rockers begin their feast of Doom Metal and Heavy Rock with Stigmatized, heavily inspired by the sound of the Dio-era Black Sabbath, with Marga shaking the foundations of the earth with her sick bass while the song’s mesmerizing vocals are beautifully spiced up by the damned beats by Carmen. And Alba brings forward the power of the riff in Ceibas, being in absolute sync with Marga’s dirty bass jabs in a lecture in Occult Rock with tons of elements from 70’s Psychedelic Rock and 80’s Hard Rock; followed by Night Comes Near, offering us all more of their delicate but piercing sounds with Carmen kicking some serious as with her rhythmic beats, dictating the rhythm and offering Alba and Marga all they need to shine with their axes. Then ritualistic words are stunningly declaimed by the trio (“Seven witches, around the fire, singing and preaching, on a night of thunder. / In the ceremony pyre, where lies the undying, the soul rises, and leaves the body.”) in The Ritual, while the music remains obscure, dense and captivating from start to finish, with the awesome Black Sabbath-like beats by Carmen being the icing on the cake.

Dark clouds are above us all in the Stygian Occult Rock extravaganza titled Lamentations, led by the minimalist but sharp riffage by Alba while Carmen fires some tribalistic beats nonstop, not to mention the fantastic job done by all three girls with their hypnotizing, witch-like vocalizations. Sounding like a song extracted form a Quentin Tarantino movie, Labyrinth is spiced up by the sensational low-tuned bass jabs by Marga, being therefore once again tailored for all admirers of the obscure and eerie sounds blasted by bands like Candlemass, Witchfinder and Pentagram; whereas despite its 70’s-inspired lyrics (“Here I am, I’ve landed in a desert, a place to be, nothing as beautiful as this is. / Orange shades, that looked so familiar, from the first time, I saw the sand.”), Duna is not as powerful as the rest of the album, sounding too polished and light at times. And last but not least, back to a more menacing and somber sonority, the trio offers our avid ears the thunderous Liturgy, where Alba is on fire with her raw riffs accompanied by the sluggish drums by Carmen, all boosted as usual by their enthralling vocal lines.

It’s time to succumb to the dark and delicious rock music crafted by those Spanish witches in The Omen, and in order to do so simply go to Spotify to stream the album in full, and of course if Occult Rock is your cup of tea you can purchase such detailed and enfolding album from several locations including the band’s own BandCamp page, Ripple Music’s BandCamp page, webstore or Big Cartel, the Rebel Waves Records’ BandCamp page, the Stoner Witch Records’ webstore or Amazon. Not only that, don’t forget to follow Kabbalah on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, for news, tour dates and more of their occult creations, allowing this extremely talented coven hailing from Spain to drag you into their doomed lair for all eternity.

Best moments of the album: Ceibas, The Ritual and Labyrinth.

Worst moments of the album: Duna.

Released in 2021 Ripple Music/Rebel Waves Records/Stoner Witch Records

Track listing
1. Stigmatized 3:56
2. Ceibas 3:16
3. Night Comes Near 3:51
4. The Ritual 3:19
5. Lamentations 3:24
6. Labyrinth 3:47
7. Duna 3:19
8. Liturgy 4:14

Band members
Alba DDU – vocals, guitar
Marga Malaria – vocals, bass
Carmen Espejo – vocals, drums

Album Review – Eight Lives Down / Humans (2020)

Four distinct musicians from four different countries united in the name of metal, bringing to us all a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable.

Originally founded by Greek-Kiwi vocalist and lyricist Aliki Katriou in 2016 together with British guitarist James Scott (replaced by French guitarist Paul Allain in 2017), bassist Marcin Orczyk from Poland, and Brazilian drummer Rodrigo Moraes Cruz, London, UK-based Extreme Metal act Eight Lives Down has its roots in Groove and Thrash Metal, but constantly branches out stylistically incorporating influences from Progressive, Death and Black Metal, as well as various other musical genres such as Punk Rock, Blues, and traditional folk music, while vocals range from low growls and high screams to clean and even operatic phrases, creating a truly unique sound, unmistakably heavy and angry, yet refreshingly different and unpredictable. Now in 2020 the quartet is ready to invade our senses with their debut full-length opus, entitled Humans, showcasing all their versatility, dynamism, creativity and rage, all enhanced by the album’s top-notch mixing and mastering done by Dan Baune at Noise Foundry Productions, while embraced by a modern, stylish artwork by Dylan Sutton.

The blazing guitar riffs by Paul kick off the sick and groovy Opening Shots, bringing forward a fusion of Melodic Death Metal with more modern and alternative styles, with Aliki growling like a true she-demon for our total delight, followed by Misguided, where the metallic bass jabs by Marcin will hit you in the face while Aliki blasts her wicked mix of clean vocals and harsh gnarls, leaning towards contemporary Thrash and Groove Metal while Rodrigo dictates the pace with his classy beats. Then the mesmerizing vocalizations by Aliki accompanied by tribalistic sounds and tones ignite the heavy and experimental Angela, with Paul, Marcin and Rodrigo bringing sheer progressiveness to the music with their refined techniques, whereas From The Cradle is a lot more introspective, grim and atmospheric than its predecessors, starting in a semi-acoustic manner while Aliki declaims the song’s dark lyrics, sounding at the same time like a 90’s Groove and Funk Metal tune and a modern-day thrashing tune, something a wicked band like Faith No More would definitely do.

More of their rumbling sounds permeate the air in the also heavy and furious Sacrifice, a lecture in Groove Metal by Eight Lives Down where Aliki’s roars get deeper and more enraged while Rodrigo sounds pulverizing on drums, supported by Marcin’s menacing bass; and in Organize Your Mind the quartet offers us all a hybrid of the rebelliousness of Alternative Metal with the intricacy of Progressive Metal, with Paul being on absolute fire with his demented riffage, while also presenting interesting atmospheric passages and endless heaviness. After that it’s time to break our necks headbanging together with Aliki and the boys in Colder, adding hints of Heavy Rock to their already crushing sonority while Paul and Marcin have a fun duel with their strident riffs and solos and low-tuned bass punches, respectively. Lastly, you better get ready for nine minutes of introspection, groove and heaviness in the form of Why, starting in a serene way with Aliki declaiming the song’s cryptic words, evolving into a thunderous metal feast led by Rodrigo’s visceral beats, not to mention the incendiary solos by Paul as the icing on the cake.

This precious gem of Extreme and Experimental Metal can be enjoyed in its entirety on YouTube, but of course in order to show your support to Aliki and her loyal henchmen you should definitely buy a copy of Humans from their own BandCamp page, from their webstore or from Amazon, as well as follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about such up-and-coming metal band, and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their idiosyncratic creations. It will certainly be more than just interesting to see what the future holds for Eight Lives Down with their upcoming releases, if they’ll keep experimenting like crazy or if they’ll set a defined shape and style for their music. Until then, while we wait for the creative mind of Aliki to provide us more insanity in the form of music, we can keep banging our heads nonstop to Humans, by far one of the best alternative albums of the year.

Best moments of the album: Opening Shots and Sacrifice.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Cult Of Parthenope

Track listing
1. Opening Shots 3:50
2. Misguided 4:01
3. Angela 3:56
4. From The Cradle 7:40
5. Sacrifice 3:52
6. Organize Your Mind 4:21
7. Colder 4:20
8. Why 9:02

Band members
Aliki Katriou – vocals
Paul Allain – guitar
Marcin Orczyk – bass
Rodrigo Moraes Cruz – drums

Album Review – Sven Gali / 3 EP (2020)

The time is now for one of the pioneers of Canadian Hard Rock to strike again with their first studio release in 25 years.

Formed in the distant year of 1987 in Niagara Falls, a Canadian city at the famous waterfalls of the same name, the old school unity that goes by the name of Sven Gali is known in for bringing the 80’s and 90’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal wave to Canada, with their 1992 self-titled debut album leading them to play from coast to coast and across the United States and Europe for the following decade. Now in 2020, after a long recording hiatus that lasted from their 1995 album Inwire until the release of their 2018 single Kill The Lies, the band comprised of founding members Dave Wanless on vocals, Andy Frank on the guitar and Shawn Minden on bass, as well as newcomers Sean Williamson on the guitars and Dan Fila on drums, is ready to rock our world once again with a brand new EP simply titled 3, presenting a slightly new musical style flirting with modernized and edgy rock music while at the same time remaining loyal to their Hard Rock roots.

Those hard rockers don’t waste a single second and begin blasting a contemporary version of their classic sonority in Kill The Lies, with Shawn’s bass punches and Dan’s beats providing Dave all he needs to shine on vocals, followed by another straightforward Heavy Rock tune titled You Won’t Break Me, released as a single in 2019, with the guitars by Andy and Sean overflowing heaviness and groove, also feeling like a hybrid between the music by Motley Crüe and Alice In Chains while sounding a lot more alternative than their usual songs. Then it’s time to scream and shout with the boys in the electrifying Now, where Dave sounds amazing with both his high-pitched roars and his deeper vocals while his bandmates generate a dense and captivating ambience, also presenting sharper-than-a-knife guitar riffs and solos for our total delight; whereas the excellent Hurt is another groovy and melodic composition where Andy, Sean and Shawn smash their strings in great fashion accompanied by the pounding beats by Dan, also showcasing Dave’s heaviest vocal performance of the EP. Needless to say, as a longtime metalhead this is by far my favorite song of their comeback (and hopefully a path they will follow in the coming years). In addition, depending on what version of the EP you get, you might still be treated to an edited version of the song Now made to be played on any Rock N’ Roll radio station worldwide.

As a Canadian webzine that’s truly proud of all the amazing rock and metal bands from the Great White North, we at The Headbanging Moose are beyond thrilled with the return of Sven Gali not only to the stages in Canada and anywhere else in the world where good rock music is truly appreciated, but in special with the fact the band is writing and recording new music like what they have to offer us all in their new EP 3, marking the beginning of a new and exciting era for such important band of the Canadian rock and metal scene. Hence, don’t forget to follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram to keep updated on all things Sven Gali, including their tour dates, subscribe to their YouTube channel and visit them on Spotify for more of their music, and keep an eye on the RFL Records webstore because sooner than later the entertaining EP 3 will be available for purchase. The time is now for Sven Gali to rock our world once again, with their short and sweet brand new EP being a solid statement that although the band might have been gone for a while, they still have a lot of fuel to burn in the name of Rock N’ Roll.

Best moments of the album: Now and Hurt.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 RFL Records

Track listing
1. Kill The Lies 3:39
2. You Won’t Break Me 3:40
3. Now 4:59
4. Hurt 3:10

Bonus track
5. Now (Radio Edit) 3:32

Band members
Dave Wanless – vocals
Andy Frank – guitars
Sean Williamson – guitars
Shawn Minden – bass
Dan Fila – drums

Album Review – The Rocket Dolls / DeadHead (2018)

A fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, symbolizing a reflection on personal demons and modern day society.

Brighton, England-based Heavy Rock trio The Rocket Dolls are ready to set fire to the scene with their brand new studio album DeadHead, featuring just the right amount of melody with straight up hook laden driven riffs combined with curveballs when you least expect them, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and Kings X, among many other renowned rock bands. Recorded at London’s award winning British Grove Studios (David Gilmour, Razorlight, Mark Knopfler), and featuring a stylish arwork by Sam Hayles at DOSEprod (Earthtone 9, Pitchshifter, Jayce Lewis), DeadHead offers the listener a fresh, contemporary collection of music that combines the best bits of heavy rock, grunge, punk, and pop smart sensibilities, all meticulously put together by the band’s unstoppable trio.

Lead singer and guitarist Nikki Smash had a few words to say about the album art and how it connects to the music. “Sam captured the essence of what our new album is about. It’s a reflection on personal demons and modern day society; the split in the wolf (half animal/half machine) symbolizes the transformation between good to bad and bad to good. It demonstrates not just the struggle of depression and anxiety that inflicts itself upon our society, but also the wolf in motion should be seen as a symbol of hope and the need to fight and overcome what’s wrong in our world.” And you better get ready to rock with this wolf pack hailing from the UK, as they’re not kidding when they say DeadHead is their strongest collection of music to date.

Crushing their instruments from the very first second as if they were the Incredible Hulk of Hard Rock the trio offers us None Of This Is Right, a song about recovering from being ill and being addicted to prescription painkillers presenting a solid instrumental with rumbling bass lines and potent beats, all led by the slashing riffs by Nikki. Then we have She’s Starting Something Now, where Nikki discusses about domestic violence against women and their sweet revenge, showcasing heavier-than-usual riffs and beats (and even with all that heaviness this song can still be played on any radio station), and the title-track DeadHead, narrating Nikki’s battles with depression, drugs and prescription painkillers. Furthermore, although the song does have a darker feel when compared to its predecessors, it’s still very vibrant, with drummer Benji Knopfler showing he’s not only precise with his drums, but he also knows how to properly pound them.

A lot smoother and more melodic, She Said is a radio-friendly composition where Nikki fires some interesting semi-acoustic guitar lines while bassist Joe Constable makes sure the atmosphere remains as dense as possible; whereas The Last Thing On My Mind is an introspective heavy ballad by the trio displaying a great vocal performance by Nikki, while the song’s background orchestral elements bring a sense of melancholy to the overall result. Nikki said that Stop The Dead Men Crying is the hardest song for him to sing and play due to its content and meaning, and the final result couldn’t sound more obscure, including even hints of old school Doom Metal, with his henchmen Joe and Benji providing him a fantastic support with their thunderous instruments. And in Drowning, a somber tune about suicidal thoughts (which explains its gentle but at the same time piercing sonority), you can sense that lancinating feeling flowing from both Nikki’s clean vocals and his enraged screams.

Putting the pedal to the metal The Rocket Dolls fire the thrilling and harmonious The Desperate, inspired by modern-day Punk Rock and led by the rhythmic beats by Benji, while Nikki fires what are probably his best riffs of the whole album. Following that explosive tune, his battle with mental health issues goes on in the also dark and pensive Strain, where Benji shows no mercy for his drum kit by smashing it like there’s no tomorrow (and the same can be said about Joe, who produces an ominous sound with his bass). In Rusty Bones, Nikki once again talks about taking painkillers for his osteoarthritis knee pain, and all the drinking and abusing that can sometimes make everything feel sluggish and slow, with the music being highly inspired by Stoner Rock and Metal, therefore bringing a neck-breaking riff and tons of agony and pain to our minds; and the band’s last blast of fury comes in the form of another thunderous Stoner Metal-like tune titled Trigger, where Joe doesn’t get tired of crushing his strings. It’s a very dense and bold composition, and needless to say a fantastic closing act for such personal album for the band’s talented frontman.

In a nutshell, I believe Nikki more than succeeded in turning all his personal demons and struggles with drug and alcohol abuse into high-quality rock music, pointing to a great direction for The Rocket Dolls wolf pack to keep following with their future albums. If you want to know more about the band and about how music has helped Nikki overcome all his fears and problems, go visit their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and don’t forget to grab your copy of DeadHead from the band’s own Big Cartel page, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Cargo Records. It’s always a pleasure to see how rock and heavy music can help a normal person like Nikki beat such delicate topics like drug and alcohol addiction and abuse, and an album like DeadHead only confirms that while Rock N’ Roll exists, nobody is alone in this world.

Best moments of the album: None Of This Is Right, The Desperate and Trigger.

Worst moments of the album: She Said.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1 .None Of This Is Right 3:54
2. She’s Starting Something Now 3:35
3. DeadHead 4:35
4. She Said 2:58
5. The Last Thing On My Mind 3:51
6. Stop The Dead Men Crying 4:29
7. Drowning 4:25
8. The Desperate 4:05
9. Strain 4:45
10. Rusty Bones 4:04
11. Trigger 3:43

Band members
Nikki Smash – vocals & guitar
Benji Knopfler – drums & backing vocals
Joe Constable – bass & backing vocals

Album Review – Cloud Catcher / Trails Of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Blasting top-of-the-line music since their genesis in 2013, this cosmic power trio is inviting you for an electrified journey through the realms of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock with their brand new album.

There’s a cosmic power trio hailing from Denver, the capital of Colorado, in the United States, that has been forging their own path in music by blasting top-of-the-line Heavy Rock since their genesis in 2013, described by the band members themselves as “heavy-boogie rock on acid”. The trio, known as Cloud Catcher and consisting of Rory Rummings on guitar and vocals, Kam Wentworth on bass and Jared Soloman Handman on drums, has spent considerable time crafting their own style of heavy cosmic rock, taking deep inspiration from the music by Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit Caravan, Led Zeppelin and tons of other classic groups, resulting in their brand new amazing album titled Trails Of Kozmic Dust.

Cloud Catcher have been on a roll since day one, delivering year after year high-quality material, starting with their debut EP Colossus in 2013, followed by some rehearsal demos in 2014, the full-length album Enlightened Beyond Existence in 2015, and the single Righteous Ruler in 2016, before returning with the full-bodied Trails Of Kozmic Dust now in 2017. Displaying an enthralling cover art designed by Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustration, this is an album that will expand your music horizons and put you on a trance from start to finish, and you won’t even need to take any acid to feel the band’s chaotic, groovy and intricate music flowing through your veins and especially through your mind.

Psychedelic sounds warm up the listener for a journey back to the 60’s and 70’s entitled Astral Warlord, a vibrant and electrified tune full of breaks and variations where albeit all musicians sound incredibly creative and focused, it’s Jared who steals the spotlight with his refined technique, setting the perfect tone for the song’s crazy, poetic lyrics (“Winds of dawn are howlin’ / Calling your name in the dark of the night / Winter comes for your life / Cold is the steel that ends your strife”). Celestial Empress brings more top-tier Heavy Rock smoothly flowing from the band’s sharp instruments, with Rory delivering an inspired performance on vocals. Moreover, the instrumental pieces sound like a hybrid of the early days of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, in special the excellent bass lines by Kam and the fiery guitar solos by Rory. And without allowing the listener to breathe, the power trio keeps blasting rumbling bass lines and distorted riffs in the groovy Beyond The Electric Sun, a song that contains all elements fans of the genre are always searching for, those being heaviness, progressiveness, craziness and  tons of feeling, with its final instrumental sequence being beyond astounding.

Then we have quick Jazz-inspired break from all insanity going on, named Dimensional Interlude, followed by Visions, a psychedelic composition tailored for lovers of Grand Funk Railroad and Captain Beyond (with a metallic twist à la Iron Maiden), with sheer acidity emanating from the guitar lines and vocals by Rory while Kam and Jared keep the reverberation at a maximum level with their pounding bass and drums. After listening to such powerful song, you’ll certainly ask yourself how far into space this talented band can go with their music. Anyway, the title-track Trails Of Kozmic Dust is yet another a complex, soulful creation by Rory, Kam and Jared, quickly transporting you to another dimension, not to mention the song’s eccentric lyrics (“Trails of kozmic dust connect my soul / Tellin’ me secrets that should not be told / Time is iridescent in black holes / Trails of kozmic dust will guide you home”).

Before the final curtains fall in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, the low-tuned, menacing bass guitar by Kam slowly drags us to the world of Cloud Catcher in the  Blues-ish Heavy Rock instrumental trip Super Acid Magick, with its last minute being a demolishing display of how intricate Experimental Rock can be; whereas Righteous Ruler, which builds an instant connection with its predecessor, sounds as if the band is returning to planet earth after such otherworldly voyage through the realms of rock music, again showcasing potent riffs by Rory and the always roaring bass by Kam, while Jared continues to do magic behind his drums. In addition, if you want to know how good this power trio sounds when they convey all their music madness to the stage, you can enjoy an amazing live performance by Cloud Catcher at the Marquis Theater in Denver, on December 19, 2015 playing several songs from Trails Of Kozmic Dust by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE.

If you enjoyed becoming part of the hallucinatory sonic expedition led by Cloud Catcher, go check their Facebook page for more news, and purchase Trails Of Kozmic Dust at the band’s own BandCamp page, at the Totem Cat Records’ Big Cartel in CD or LP format, at the Stickman Records’ webstore, at Discogs or on Amazon. The never-failing fusion of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock has always had an enormous potential to blow our minds under any circumstances, but when the band in question has an undisputed, full-blown talent like Cloud Catcher as we can see in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, we know that mental explosion will be even stronger and more potent than anyone could expect.

Best moments of the album: Astral Warlord, Beyond The Electric Sun and Visions.

Worst moments of the album: Righteous Ruler.

Released in 2017 Totem Cat Records

Track listing
1. Astral Warlord 5:31
2. Celestial Empress 5:41
3. Beyond The Electric Sun 7:06
4. Dimensional Interlude 1:03
5. Visions 4:28
6. Trails Of Kozmic Dust 6:21
7. Super Acid Magick 3:34
8. Righteous Ruler 5:42

Band members
Rory Rummings – guitar, vocals
Kam Wentworth – bass, backing vocals
Jared Soloman Handman – drums

Album Review – SpiteFuel / Second To None (2017)

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new flammable entity hailing from Germany is born, bringing you a broad spectrum of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll always true to their motto “we don’t care, we just rock!”

There are countless instances in the world of heavy music when a fresh new start is necessary to fix some issues and flaws a band might have in order to move forward with their career, and in the case of German metallers SpiteFuel those changes couldn’t have been done at a better time, culminating with the release of their gripping new album titled Second To None. After the split-up of the also German group Strangelet in the beginning of 2016, three of the former members of the band, lead singer Stefan Zörner, guitarist Tobias Eurich and bassist Finn Janetzky joined forces with ex-Devil’s Darling members Timo Pflüger (guitar) and Björn-Philipp Hessenmüller (drums) to form SpiteFuel, aiming at blasting their traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock the likes of Judas Priest, Accept, Guns N’ Roses and Queensrÿche throughout the entire world, always remaining true to their motto “we don’t care, we just rock!”

Hailing form Heilbronn, a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany, SpiteFuel offer the listener during Second To None’s over 45 minutes of music a broad spectrum of Heavy Rock, from hard neck-breakers and heavy mid-tempo pounders to fragile ballads full of emotion, all in the name of Rock N’ Roll. The cover artwork, made by renowned American artist Travis Smith (Seempieces), who has already worked with several iconic bands such as Nevermore, Iced Earth and Death, among others, completes a coherent overall picture of the music found in Second To None. Furthermore, despite being a newly reformed group, SpiteFuel still keeps the initial fire that gave birth to Strangelet burning inside them, proving their excitement and passion for heavy music will never cease no matter what.

The tribal and enthralling On Burning Wings introduces us to a Hard Rock extravaganza named Purified, where its blazing guitars and nonstop action fill every single space in the music. Moreover, Tobias and Timo blend the fury of German Power Metal and the fun of American Hard Rock in their riffs and solos, also presenting hints of the sonority crafted by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Then we have a good dosage of headbanging riffs and crushing beats in a badass feast named By My Hand, an excellent choice for a rock n’ roll radio playlist where Stefan effectively plays the role of the band’s frontman like Vince Neil, Brett Michaels and so many other Hard Rock idols; followed by the even better Whorehouse Symphony, venturing through heavier fields with hints of Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold added to its already solid musicality. That fusion of metal styles ends up working extremely well, turning it into the best and most unique song of the album in my opinion, with highlights to the great performance by Stefan with his more aggressive vocals and to Finn with his rumbling bass lines.

In Regrets, what starts in a melancholic way quickly morphs into a pleasant power ballad, showcasing a passionate performance by Stefan on vocals while the rest of the band maintains a dark but smooth vibe flowing, including a soulful guitar solo to spice things up a bit; whereas in the first single of the album, Sleeping With Wolves, a howling wolf warns the listener a heavy music party is about to begin. It’s another song with pounding drums and heavier-than-usual riffs à la Avenged Sevenfold, without losing the harmony of Hard Rock and with highlights to the gripping performances by Stefan on vocals and the skillful Björn on drums. And the rising instrumental bridge Adamah’s Tribes works as a mysterious intro to Triad Of Faith, where the old school Heavy Metal riffs and solos by Tobias and Timo, together with the always thunderous bass guitar by Finn, give the Hard Rock played by SpiteFuel a more serious and epic taste.

Fly, a serene ballad by these talented German rockers, is a moment of peace amidst all the heaviness blasted throughout the rest of the album, with an absolute focus on the gentle vocals by Stefan, but all that tranquility doesn’t last for too long as the band gets back to their flammable rockin’ sounding in Devil’s Darling, named in allusion to one of the bands that originated SpiteFuel. Once again presenting sharp riffs and bass lines, it’s a good Hard Rock composition, albeit not as exciting as the rest of the album (it should sound a lot better if played live, though). And lastly, despite its melancholic start, It Remains Empty Forever quickly becomes an electrified Rock N’ Roll chant with modern Hard Rock and Heavy Metal elements, also displaying hints of progressiveness thanks to the drumming by Björn.

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, a new entity known as SpiteFuel was born from the ashes of Strangelet, and based on the high-quality of the music found in Second To None these German rockers seem to have finally found their desired shape and sound, which will certainly propel them to new heights in the rock and metal universe. You can get in touch with the guys through their official Facebook page, listen to their music through their BandCamp page, and buy your copy of Second To None at the MDD Records webstore, at the Nuclear Blast webstore, at the EMP webstore, on Amazon and at several other retailers such as Saturn and Media Markt. SpiteFuel don’t care, they just rock, and after taking a good listen at Second To None you’ll realize that’s exactly what they want us all to do together with them. Well, we can’t say no to some good old Rock N’ Roll, right?

Best moments of the album: Purified, Whorehouse Symphony and Sleeping With Wolves.

Worst moments of the album: Devil’s Darling.

Released in 2017 MDD Records

Track listing
1. On Burning Wings 1:14
2. Purified 3:49
3. By My Hand 4:21
4. Whorehouse Symphony 5:20
5. Regrets 6:17
6. Sleeping With Wolves 6:14
7. Adamah’s Tribes 0:40
8. Triad Of Faith 4:19
9. Fly 4:19
10. Devil’s Darling 4:10
11. It Remains Empty Forever 4:45

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Tobias Eurich – guitar
Timo Pflüger – guitar
Finn Janetzky – bass
Björn-Philipp Hessenmüller – drums

Album Review – Iron Maiden / The Book Of Souls (2015)

As you read through the pages of The Book Of Souls you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all, no matter how far.

Rating1

Iron Maiden_The Book of Souls“Here is the soul of a man…”

Unless you were one of the luckiest bastards in the world who joined Mr. Bruce Dickinson on a special 737 flight from Cardiff, UK to Paris, France on August 26 to hear in its entirety the brand new album by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, the 92-minute Mayan-inspired masterpiece The Book Of Souls, I’m pretty sure you have been suffering lately from several “withdrawal symptoms” such as anxiety, palpitations, restlessness and poor concentration, counting every second left until today to close that excruciating five-year gap since their 2010 album The Final Frontier. However, you can definitely relax now, because the band’s first ever double studio album is not only ass-kicking, but so dense and multi-layered we have enough Iron Maiden at their finest to soothe our souls for the next five decades or so.

Furthermore, there are so many noteworthy details surrounding The Book Of Souls it’s hard to summarize everything in just a few lines. For instance, the album was recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, the same studio used for their 2000 release Brave New World, with several songs being written and recorded immediately after to give them a live and fresh taste. Also, the album cover features the original version of the Iron Maiden logo, not used on a studio album since their 1995 release The X Factor. And finally, although The Book Of Souls is not a concept album, many songs have references to the human soul, mortality and death, depicted in the artwork as the idiosyncratic “Eddie Sapiens” by English illustrator Mark Wilkinson, who by the way has already worked with other music icons such as Marillion, Fish and Judas Priest, as well as with Iron Maiden themselves in previous works like Best of the ‘B’ Sides and the single The Wicker Man. In addition, the band hired Mayanist scholar Simon Martin, who also translated the song titles into hieroglyphs, to validate the accuracy of the artwork. If there’s a band that pays attention to every single detail in their albums, that’s undoubtedly Iron Maiden.

Nevertheless, it’s when the music starts that we’re all reminded why we love these British veterans so much, and in the case of The Book Of Souls there’s A LOT of music for us Maidenmaniacs to relish. Starting with the first disc, the intro in the excellent If Eternity Should Fail already gave me goosebumps, and besides, it’s really comforting to see that Mr. Bruce Dickinson’s voice continues to be stunning after his battle against cancer (even knowing the album was recorded before his treatment started). After that it’s pure Iron Maiden, which means powerful riffs, galloping bass and drums, and a gripping storyline, with the creepy narration at the end (“the harvester of souls”) reminding me of what Bruce did in some of the songs from his excellent solo album The Chemical Wedding. And if you think this is a lengthy song with its imposing eight minutes, let me remind you it’s only the fourth one in terms of duration. Moving on to the next track, it’s not Iron Maiden if you cannot enjoy some extra freebies such as a behind-the-scenes exclusive footage of an official video or playing a special game inspired by a song, which is the case in the high-octane Speed of Light, where Hard Rock is taken to the next level with the help of some dashing cowbell, Bruce’s vibrant screams and a fuckin’ awesome rhythm led by Iron Maiden’s guitar triumvirate formed by Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, taking us fans back in time to a Piece of Mind-ish musicality with a touch of Brave New World. Moreover, this electric tune has that type of chorus you’ll be singing nonstop in the shower, in your car, at work, school and anywhere else in the world with your fists in the air and a huge smile on your face (“Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / At the speed of light / Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / We’re slippin’ through the night”).

Iron MaidenThe Great Unknown, which reminds me of some of the songs from The X-Factor but with the addition of the high-end progressiveness found in their latest albums (especially The Final Frontier), showcases the always superb Nicko McBrain firing his unique beats and fills, as well as another eerie story told by Bruce, keeping The Book Of Souls at an incredible level of quality. But it’s from The Red and the Black on that the album becomes a brilliant tribute to Heavy Metal. No words can describe the verve of its intro, and it doesn’t matter if you consider it old school or more contemporary Iron Maiden, as long as you acknowledge its awesomeness. It’s obviously another masterful and epic creation by the one and only Mr. Steve Harris, with highlights to the combination of Steve’s flawless bass lines and Dave’s, Janick’s and Adrian’s riffs and solos. I can’t wait to scream its electrifying “Ooh-Oooh! Ooh-Oooh!” together with the band when I see them live next year (if they play it, of course), and while some people might complain this song is too long, I prefer complaining it has “only” 13 minutes. Too short for its greatness, don’t you agree?

With hints of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and their Punk Rock attitude from Iron Maiden and Killers, the fast-paced tune When the River Runs Deep, written by Adrian and Steve, truly makes my blood run wild, and I’m certain that if this song was part of any of their old albums it would have become an all-time classic without a shadow of a doubt. Bruce and Nicko are absolutely on fire, making me wonder if they’re really over 50 years old as they sound like they’re in their 20’s, so fiery their performances are. Then closing the first album we have the title-track, The Book of Souls, exhaling beauty from its melancholic intro to the poetry in its lyrics. Everything was meticulously put together by the whole band in this song, which has actually two distinct parts if you pay good attention, the first composed by a grandiose and marching rhythm enhanced by the keyboards in the background, while the second is a lot faster and heavier, showcasing Maiden’s traditional guitar riffs and solos until the songs fades to a somber and calm ending.

In order to properly kick off the second disc and tear the house down, Adrian and Bruce got together to craft another fighting anthem the likes of The Duellists entitled Death or Glory, the perfect soundtrack to an epic battle movie where nothing sounds out of place, with highlights to its exciting backing vocals, blazin’ guitar solos and a potent battlefield sonority. Truth be told, I can’t stop banging my head and playing air bass guitar to this straightforward tune, which is also the case in Shadows of the Valley and its “Wasted Years 2.0” intro, another strong candidate for their live performances. Despite beginning in a very similar way as one of their biggest classics of all time, it ends up following a pattern closer to songs such as “The Fallen Angel” and “Montségur”, mainly due to its characteristic galloping bass guitar and Nicko’s solid drumming. One thing I love doing while listening to Iron Maiden is closing my eyes and absorbing the story Bruce is telling me while the other band members generate a thrilling ambience, and let me tell you this song is perfect for that.

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Tears of a Clown, a reverent Heavy Rock tribute to one of the most important actors in the world, Mr. Robin Williams (R.I.P.), is a lot more inclined to Bruce’s solo career, and albeit its instrumental parts sound very cohesive what really stands out in this song is the story told through its lyrics. And The Man of Sorrows, which also sounds closer to something Bruce would do on his own rather than with Iron Maiden (it was written by Steve and Dave, by the way), is completely different from Accident of Birth’s “Man of Sorrows” regardless of their almost identical names. It starts as a heavy ballad, evolving to a darker, more progressive and more melodic musicality than usual, increasing its complexity and impact on the listener.

And last but not least, Empire of the Clouds, featuring Bruce on piano for the first time ever and based on the historic crash of the titanic airship R101 in 1930, replaces “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as the band’s longest song ever at 18 minutes in duration. It is perhaps the most melancholic and sorrowful song ever composed by the band, and as we all know they have the guts to play something like this live I bet it will be part of their upcoming setlist next year for our purest delectation. Bruce gives a History lesson about the R101 during the whole song, taking its epicness to the second power, with the music perfectly representing the audacity, dreams and failure involved in that important historical fact. Additionally, after nine minutes it becomes a music voyage full of changes in rhythm, progressive passages and symphonic elements, culminating in a gentle and passionate climax that closes The Book Of Souls with a flourish.

In summary, Iron Maiden triumphed once again (as if anyone is really surprised with that), delivering a bold, venturous and elaborate album that will keep them atop the highest mountains of heavy music, consequently attracting more and more fans to their extensive family and keeping Heavy Metal strong and relevant for many years to come. Now all we have to do is wait patiently for their gigantic world tour next year on board of their Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet (aka Queen of the Skies), listening to The Book Of Souls over and over again until then. And as you read through the pages of the new epic album by Heavy Metal’s greatest band of all time, you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, and you, and you, and you, and all of you… no matter how far.

Best moments of the album: The Red and the Black, When the River Runs Deep, Death or Glory, Shadows of the Valley and Empire of the Clouds.

Worst moments of the album: WHAT!?

Released in 2015 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing
Disc one
1. If Eternity Should Fail 8:28
2. Speed of Light 5:01
3. The Great Unknown 6:37
4. The Red and the Black 13:33
5. When the River Runs Deep 5:52
6. The Book of Souls 10:27

Disc two
1. Death or Glory 5:13
2. Shadows of the Valley 7:32
3. Tears of a Clown 4:59
4. The Man of Sorrows 6:28
5. Empire of the Clouds 18:01

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals, piano on “Empire of the Clouds”
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums