Album Review – Raventale / Planetarium II (2020)

A deep and profound journey through the black wastelands of extraneous cosmos offered by a Ukrainian one-man army in the form of first-class atmospheric and extreme music.

Playing what he likes to call “Atmospheric Blackened Metal” since the project’s inception in 2005 in Kyiv, Ukraine, the talented vocalist and mutli-instrumentalist Astaroth Merc, from bands like Balfor, Chapter V:F10 and P’hevda Phenomenon, returns in 2020 with his Atmospheric Black Metal alter ego Raventale armed with his eleventh (and grandiose) full-length album titled Planetarium II, the conceptual follow-up to his 2017 album Planetarium. Recorded at Miasma Studio between 2017 and 2020, featuring a celestial artwork by Belarusian artist Olga Kann and guest female vocals by Ukrainian singer Alina Belova (Helengard, Kauan), as well as a linguistic adaptation by Nataliia GrimMe, Planetarium II extends the analysis of extrapolation of cosmic mysteries, clandestine dimensions and extramundane weirdness, or in other words, it’s a deep and profound journey through the black wastelands of extraneous cosmos offered by Astaroth in the form of first-class atmospheric and extreme music.

Sheen Of Urania works as some sort of  wicked intro led by the crushing, razor-edged guitar lines by Astaroth, dragging us all to the doomed and atmospheric world of Raventale in Extra Terrestrial Arcana, where the imposing sounds blasted by Astaroth generate a menacing and epic ambience perfect for his demonic roars, resulting in a beautiful Atmospheric Black Metal creation bringing to our ears crisp solos, whimsical keys and endless epicness while also overflowing rage and insanity. Not only Drinking Sulfur, Devouring The Sun carries a beautiful name for a song just like what Cradle of Filth would offer us, but musically speaking it’s beyond sensational, with Astaroth and his Raventale continuing to blend classic Black Metal with the Symphonic Black Metal played by Dimmu Borgir and nuances of Doom Metal and Blackened Doom for our total delight; whereas a damned rhythm intertwined with stylish background keys and a futuristic vibe are the main ingredients in the breathtaking Route To Andromeda, with our lone wolf growling in the darkest way possible in perfect sync with his scorching, venomous riffs.

The Moon In The Seventh House, perhaps the most Stygian of all songs, is a lecture in atmospheric and grim music, with guest Alina Belova adding a touch of finesse to the overall result while Astaroth’s vicious riffage walks hand in hand with his blast beats and phantasmagorical keys; and as atmospheric as it can be from the very first second, Let The Fire Burn! is another imposing composition that paves Raventale’s cosmic path to the bold and multi-layered Earth (Alpha & Omega), sounding at the same time very fresh and modern while living up to the legacy of classic Symphonic Black Metal. Furthermore, Astaroth’s infernal growling makes a fantastic paradox with his classy keyboards, while the drums keep the song’s pace vibrant and heavy-as-hell. And finally, the Doom Metal-infused aria A Temple Of My Choice puts a melancholic and climatic ending to the album, showcasing Astaroth’s anguished gnarls, sluggish beats and a feeling that all hope is lost, with the music marching on stunningly while our one-man army simply kicks ass with all instruments from start to finish.

You can show your support to such skillful and hardworking black metaller by following Raventale on Facebook and on VKontakte, and by purchasing your copy of Planetarium II in just a few days from his own BandCamp page, as well as from Ashen Dominion’s BandCamp page or webstore. In the end, we must all admit Astaroth has definitely outdone himself with his newborn spawn, elevating his music to the same level as some of the biggest names of the genre including Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Septicflesh, to name a few, showing all his hard work through the years is truly paying off, positioning Raventale as one of the most prominent names of the Ukrainian scene and, above all that, offering us fans of atmospheric music the perfect soundtrack for exploring the vastness and obscurity of the cosmos.

Best moments of the album: Drinking Sulfur, Devouring The Sun, The Moon In The Seventh House and Earth (Alpha & Omega).

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Ashen Dominion

Track listing
1. Sheen Of Urania 1:53
2. Extra Terrestrial Arcana 6:38
3. Drinking Sulfur, Devouring The Sun 6:24
4. Route To Andromeda 5:48
5. The Moon In The Seventh House 7:06
6. Let The Fire Burn! 3:27
7. Earth (Alpha & Omega) 6:03
8. A Temple Of My Choice 5:30

Band members
Astaroth Merc – vocals, all instruments

Guest musicians
Alina Belova – female vocals

Album Review – Chasing Embers / Beckoning Call (2019)

The debut album by this up-and-coming Ukrainian outfit is a fresh and exciting feast of modern-day Alternative Metal revolving around our inner world, our thoughts, desires and aspirations.

Founded in 2016 in Kyiv, Ukraine by drummer Vladyslav Pospolitak, who quit all his previous projects back then to focus on the creation of his own band, the story of Alternative Metal outfit Chasing Embers actually began when vocalist July Tallina joined the band as their frontwoman after numerous unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable candidate to be their male vocalist. Comprised of the aforementioned Vladyslav and July, guitarist and co-founder Alexey Hrankyn, and newcomers Oleksandr Zahorulia also on the guitar and Vladyslav Kachanovskyi on bass, Chasing Embers are strongly influenced by a wide range of styles, from old school rock and metal music to Alternative and Nu Metal from the 2000’s, and that full-bodied amalgamation of sounds can be appreciated in detail in their debut album titled Beckoning Call.

Featuring a dark and pensive cover art conceptualized by July herself, Beckoning Call deals with the issues of industrialization and human separation from nature, with its lyrics revolving around our inner world, our thoughts, desires and aspirations. Aiming at writing about things they experienced in their own lives in order to achieve the utmost honesty in their songs, Chasing Embers deliver a fresh and exciting feast of modern metal music in their debut album, being recommended for fans of female-fronted bands like Evanescence, Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation as well as more alternative acts such as Korn and Linkin Park. Not only that, the crystal clear production of Beckoning Call is also way above average, enhancing the impact of each instrument and, therefore, making the whole experience of listening to the album a lot more detailed and enjoyable.

A captivating intro led by Vladyslav Kachanovskyi’s metallic bass sets fire to the album in the opening track Beckoning Call, one of those songs perfect for headbanging vigorously while enjoying July’s fiery vocals all at once, resulting in a beautiful welcome card by the band that flows smoothly into Desires And Fears, bringing forward a well-balanced fusion of Alternative Rock and Metal with Alexey and Oleksandr being on fire with their unstoppable riffs, while its lyrics will penetrate deep inside your psyche (“Let’s try to make something better / Than reality / Just stop and show me / What you’ve got / I want to fill it forever / Room deep inside / I want to find out what is a lie”). And an atmospheric, ethereal start grows in intensity until all hell breaks loose in Spiritual, feeling like a hybrid of the music by Evanescence and Lacuna Coil and with Vladyslav Pospolitak dictating the song’s rhythm while Vladyslav Kachanovskyi keeps blasting his bass chords in great fashion.

The band’s skillful bassist keeps bringing thunder and groove to the band’s music in High Stakes, providing July all she needs to shine on vocals in another melodic display of modern rock music showcasing a catchy rhythm and endless electricity; whereas in Carnage it’s time for a more serene and charming moment inspired by the music by Evanescence, with the spotlight being of course on July and her passionate vocals, all enhanced by a soulful guitar solo and some gentle piano notes. Then the excellent Silent House starts in a wicked way and evolves into an absolute madhouse of Alternative Metal, a lot heavier and more austere than all previous songs, which means it will work amazingly when played live especially due to the adrenaline blasted by Vladyslav Pospolitak on drums and July’s darkened vocals.

Once again dealing with mental issues (“Turn off the light / I’m falling into my mind / This room is quite / Where real me waits a sign / Just draw the crack / And water will come in / Just draw the crack / And water will come in”), Drown With Me offers the listener a good dosage of heaviness albeit sounding very smooth at the same time, with the passion coming from July’s words being truly captivating while Alexey and Oleksandr extract piercing and touching riffs from their axes; and Chasing Embers do not stop smashing their instruments, bringing to our ears the also solid and well-crafted Last Night Tonight, speeding things up a bit and incorporating elements from Progressive Metal to their sonority. Lastly, the quintet fires more of their alternative music in The Moonman, a good rockin’ tune that’s a little generic if compared to the rest of the album, with its guitars and bass sounding as vibrant as usual.

If you’re a fan of this more alternative side of music like what Chasing Embers deliver in Beckoning Call, you can take a detailed listen at the entire album on Spotify, and obviously purchase it from the band’s BandCamp page or webstore, or simply click HERE for all places where you can listen to or put your hands on such distinct album. Also, keep an eye on their Facebook page, VKontakte and YouTube channel for more of their music, tour dates, news and other nice-to-know details about their career, and may those talented Ukrainian metallers keep embellishing the airwaves with their stylish musical creations for many decades to come for our total delectation.

Best moments of the album: Beckoning Call, High Stakes and Silent House.

Worst moments of the album: The Moonman.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. Beckoning Call 6:15
2. Desires And Fears 4:39
3. Spiritual 5:19
4. High Stakes 4:09
5. Carnage 3:31
6. Silent House 4:51
7. Drown With Me 5:27
8. Last Night Tonight 4:41
9. The Moonman 5:09

Band members
July Tallina – vocals
Alexey Hrankyn – guitar
Oleksandr Zahorulia – guitar
Vladyslav Kachanovskyi – bass
Vladyslav Pospolitak – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Mariia “Masha” Dementieva

Raise some hell, our true Lady Evil!

Are you ready to scream and roar together with our metal chick of the month of April in the name of darkness and evil, here on The Headbanging Moose webzine? If you’re a fan of the blasphemous, obscure and absolutely awesome music played by renowned acts like Behemoth, Septicflesh and Kaoteon, among many others, you’ll fall in love with the talent and beauty of Mariia “Masha” Dementieva, also known as simply Masha (or even  Mary Crematorium in a not-so-distant past, and if you prefer, Мария Дементьева in her mother tongue), the unrelenting frontwoman for Ukrainian Blackened Death Metal horde Nordwitch. That, of course, if you come from another galaxy or dimension and haven’t listened to Nordwitch’s sulfurous music yet, because if you’re from this planet I’m sure you’re already addicted to Masha’s demonic growling.

Although there’s isn’t much available online about Masha’s personal life (apart from many awesome photos from her career as a model, photo model and alternative tattoo model), you can still enjoy a good amount of information from her ass-kicking Kyiv-based band Nordwitch, formed in 2015. Singing about some very interesting topics such as satanism, occultism and ancient Scandinavian mythology, Nordwitch bring forth a flammable fusion of Black and Death Metal in their music, offering tons of melody amidst a brutal sonic devastation. The name Nordwitch, according to Masha herself, is the band’s representation of the mysticism and mystery of Scandinavian witches with a hint of female sexuality, which by the way matches perfectly with her diabolical vocal style. As a matter of fact, before becoming Nordwitch, Masha and the rest of the band, guitarists Max and Leo and bassist Max Senchilo, were all part of a Symphonic/Progressive Metal band named Crystalnight, where Masha was not their vocalist, but their keyboardist. If you’re curious to know how Masha and her bandmates used to sound before morphing into the dark beast known as Nordwitch, you can take a listen at some of their songs from their ReverbNation profile, such as Dark Angel and the original version of Nordwitch’s crushing tune Lady Evil.

In addition, not only Masha spearheads her horde of Blackened Death Metal in Nordwitch, but she was also one of the producers of their 2016 opus Mørk Profeti together with the other members of the band. You can listen to their pulverizing album in full on YouTube, and raise your horns to amazing songs like the aforementioned Lady Evil and Messiah of Death, or search for some live footage online like this one where the band is playing Lady Evil live at MHM – Metal Head’s Mission Festival in 2018. Furthermore, don’t forget to buy your copy of the album at the Satanath Records BandCamp, to subscribe to the band’s YouTube channel (where you can find for example a fun and raw version of the song No Regret live in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2016), follow them on VKontakte, and listen to more of their music through their ReverbNation and SoundCloud profiles. Who doesn’t enjoy listening to some brutal metal music like this remastered live version of Messiah of Death, right?

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In regards to her idols and main influences in music and in life in general, Masha said in one of her interviews that not only herself but all of her bandmates are inspired by mysticism, occultism and several other eccentric topics when writing their music, always trying to make their sound as unique as possible. As the main founder and central figure of Nordwitch, a project that was originated inside her pagan mind, Masha is obviously influenced by all classic Black Metal bands, such as Mayhem, Watain and Bathory, which she’s been a fan since she was a teenager, and you can see how much she’s passionate about such controversial but fantastic subgenre of heavy music by visiting her official Instagram account and searching for her personal videos playing several Black Metal classics on the piano and keyboard. For instance, take a very good listen at her delicate but at the same time piercing piano versions for Burzum’s Dunkelheit and Han Som Reiste, Dark Funeral’s Stigmata, Dissection’s Where Dead Angels Lie and Thorns Of Crimson Death, and Shining’s Tillsammans Är Vi Allt, among others, as well as non-Black Metal hymns like Type O Negative’s Love You To Death. In addition, she mentioned in an interview that she’s also influenced by classical music and Scandinavian folk music, which kind of explains her passion for the piano, and that Runhild Gammelsæter, a Norwegian musician notable for being the vocalist for the American bands Thorr’s Hammer and Khlyst, is her favorite female metal singer of all time, complementing by saying that she cannot choose only one male singer as her favorite, though, as there are too many.

When asked about her hobbies outside of music, Masha listed a few very interesting and healthy activities, like working out and practicing sports, modeling and photography, also mentioning her interest in satanism, occultism and the mythology of ancient Scandinavia, which as aforementioned are the main topics covered in the music by Nordwitch. In addition, Masha said in one of her interviews she’s an apolitical person, as in her opinion true Black Metal has always been and will continue to be away from politics or anything related to it, being focused on religion and other more obscure topics. She also said that she had always dreamed about being in an Extreme Metal band like Nordwitch, but she wasn’t sure if that was going to actually happen one day, also saying she understands being a woman in a Black and Death Metal band from the underground scene is not easy at all, but that she won’t give up and keep on rockin’, always counting on the support form her family, friends and fans, aiming as high as possible with Nordwitch in the years to come. And we, true metalheads, will be ready to hail darkness and raise our horns together with the unstoppable Masha and her henchmen, no doubt about that.

Masha’s Official Instagram
NordWitch’s Official Facebook page
NordWitch’s Official VKontakte
NordWitch’s Official YouTube channel