Album Review – WitcheR / Lélekharang (2022)

A talented Hungarian duo brings to our avid ears Atmospheric Black Metal in its most magical form, entrancing the senses with its yearning for things lost to the relentless march of progress.

Steeped in the folklore and ancient beliefs of their homeland, Lélekharang, which translates as “soul bell”, is the third full-length opus by Szombathely, Hungary-based Atmospheric Black Metal duo WitcheR, dedicated to fans of Summoning, Wolves in the Throne Room and early Dimmu Borgir. Recorded at Vrag’s Forest Studio, engineered, mixed and mastered by WitcheR themselves, and displaying a stylish artwork by Grafit és Hamu, Lélekharang is Atmospheric Black Metal in its most magical form, entrancing the senses with its yearning for things lost to the relentless march of progress, all carefully brought into being by Karola Gere on vocals and synths, and Roland Neubauer (aka Vrag) on vocals, guitars and drums, leading you through the forests of memory to a place where all that was lost is found once more.

The gentle, atmospheric piano by Karola will embrace us all in the album’s Intro, transporting our souls to the Stygian realm ruled by WitcheR in Hamvak (or “ashes” from Hungarian), exploding into stunning Atmospheric Black Metal where Roland extracts anguish and fear from his riffs while at the same time he dictates the pace with his stylish beats. Moreover, the duo offers us demonic gnarls and endless obscurity throughout the entire song, making it even more compelling; followed by the title-track Lélekharang, an even more enfolding, atmospheric aria by such talented Hungarian duo, with its beautiful background elements and the synths by Karola adding an extra Stygian touch to the overall result, creating a fantastic paradox with the scorching riffage by Roland. Csendesen (“silently”) offers us all seven minutes of majestic passages, imposing synths and drums, and all the energy that only Atmospheric Black Metal can bring to our avid ears, sounding truly enticing from start to finish, and as expected the duo fires another sensational explosion of their fusion of Black and Doom Metal with pure atmospheric elements entitled Hazatérés (“homecoming”), where their deep, devilish roars are spiced up by the razor-edged riffs and hammering drums by Roland, flowing into their delicate cover version for Moonlight Sonata Op. 27. No. 2. I. Adagio sostenuto by Ludwig van Beethoven ( check the original version HERE), putting a climatic finale to the album.

The brand new spawn of obscurity by WitcheR can be fully appreciated on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course you should show your utmost support to the duo and purchase the album from their own BandCamp page, from the Filosofem Records’ BandCamp page, or from the Beverina Productions’ BandCamp page, and don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook, Instagram and VKontakte, to subscribe to their YouTube channel, and to stream all of their unique creations on Spotify. The bells of Atmospheric Black Metal are tolling majestically thanks to the amazing job done by WitcheR in their new album, taking the Hungarian underground to new heights and leaving us all eager for more of their music in the near future.

Best moments of the album: Lélekharang and Hazatérés.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2022 Filosofem Records/Beverina Productions/Casus Belli Musica

Track listing
1.Intro 1:48
2.Hamvak 7:44
3.Lélekharang 10:16
4.Csendesen 6:58
5.Hazatérés 9:20
6.Moonlight Sonata Op. 27. No. 2. I. Adagio sostenuto (Ludwig van Beethoven cover) 3:24

Band members
Karola Gere – vocals, synths
Roland Neubauer – vocals, guitars, drums

Album Review – Reternity / A Test Of Shadows (2020)

Just one year after the release of their debut album, this German Melodic Heavy Metal outfit returns in full force with a worthy and stronger successor in every way.

Just one year after the release of Facing the Demon and after several successful club shows and festivals, the creative duo consisting of frontman Stefan Zörner and guitarist Carsten Sauter, together with guitarist Oskar Schmidt, bassist Didi Schenk and drummer Suat Gören, collectively known as Heilbronn, Germany-based Melodic Heavy Metal outfit Reternity, are back in full force with their sophomore album entitled A Test of Shadows, a worthy and stronger successor in every way. Produced in cooperation with Jonas Kümmerle at Analog Mixing Studio, A Test Of Shadows brings forward compact songs without unnecessary lengths, always spiced up by the melodic and expressive vocals of Stefan as well as the powerful and original riffs of Carsten, with a musical spectrum ranging from homages to the Speed and Thrash Metal scene of the blissful 80’s to heavy and danceable mid-tempo hymns and neck-breakers, resulting in a sound that should quickly grow on the heart of every friend of melodic, varied metal.

A creepy version to an excerpt from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony NO. 9 in D Minor, OP. 125: IV. Finale: Presto – Allegro Assai – Rezitativo – Allegro Assai sets the stage for Sniper’s Death, where Suat begins crushing his drums in great fashion, offering Stefan all he needs to shine on vocals in a thrilling and heavy-as-hell Melodic Heavy Metal feast, also showcasing Thrash Metal-infused guitars. There’s more of their groovy and smashing riffs in This Is the End, courtesy of the band’s infernal guitar duo Carsten and Oskar supported by Didi’s rumbling bass, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and exhaling pure metal, and it’s interesting to see how the band has invested a lot more on the thrill and heaviness of classic Heavy Metal this time rather than the melody of their previous release as in My Crush, with Stefan doing a great job declaiming the song’s passionate lyrics. In the title-track A Test of Shadows, a very progressive and dark creation by Reternity, Carsten’s and Oskar’s riffage sounds as razor-edged as possible, with Suat dictating the pace with his intricate beats and fills. Needless to say, this should sound amazing when played live; and  starting with elements from Groove Metal and from the heavier-than-usual rock blasted by Volbeat and Godsmack they offer us all A Grave Called Home, alternating between more introspective, serene moments and obscure, pounding guitars and drums.

Time to put the pedal to the metal once again in (We Were) the Gods, with Stefan’s precise vocal lines being amazingly supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals in a hybrid of classic Heavy Metal with contemporary Melodic Metal, not to mention Suat’s old school beats, and they keep hammering our heads with their fusion of harmony and aggressiveness in Falling Shadows, where Didi once again blasts metallic sounds form his bass while the band’s guitar duo offers our ears Iron Maiden-inspired riffs. In You’ll See the Sun they tried to sound a little bit more stoner or alternative than usual; however, it didn’t work as well as expected, with even Stefan’s vocals sounding uninspired and bland, feeling disconnected from the rest of such amazing album. Fortunately, in No Deeper Hole the boys get back to a more frantic and berserk mode thanks to the smashing drums by Suat and the always incendiary riffs and solos by Carsten and Oskar, and the sheer electricity flowing from all instruments will surely generate some nice circle pits during their live concerts. Lastly, obscure piano notes kick off the somber and melancholic Stranded, created in collaboration with Jazz musician Aljoscha Crema, by far the most personal of all songs where Stefan has another superb performance on vocals, putting a gentle and introspective ending to A Test Of Shadows.

In summary, if you consider yourself a diehard fan of melodic and classic Heavy Metal, I highly recommend you take a shot at A Test Of Shadows, first by streaming the album in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and then, even more important than that, by purchasing the album from your favorite retailer, including the MDD shop, Nuclear Blast, Apple Music and Amazon. Also, don’t forget to follow Reternity on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about Stefan, Carsten & Co., as I’m more than sure those German metallers will keep embellishing the airwaves with their refined and extremely pleasant creations for many years to come, just like what they have to offer us in A Test Of Shadows, an album that explains why not only the big German bands like Scorpions and Helloween have conquered the world of heavy music, but also why the underground scene in Germany is by far one of the best in the entire world.

Best moments of the album: (We Were) the Gods, Falling Shadows and No Deeper Hole.

Worst moments of the album: You’ll See the Sun.

Released in 2020 Black Sunset

Track listing
1. Symphony NO. 9 in D Minor, OP. 125: IV. Finale: Presto – Allegro Assai – Rezitativo – Allegro Assai (Intro) 0:19
2. Sniper’s Death 4:08
3. This Is the End 3:21
4. My Crush 4:12
5. A Test of Shadows 4:29
6. A Grave Called Home 5:07
7. (We Were) the Gods 4:11
8. Falling Shadows 4:06
9. You’ll See the Sun 4:29
10. No Deeper Hole 2:47
11. Stranded 5:18

Band members
Stefan Zörner – vocals
Carsten Sauter – guitars
Oskar Schmidt – guitars
Didi Schenk – bass
Suat Gören – drums

Guest musician
Aljoscha Crema – piano on “Stranded”

Metal Chick of the Month – Kobra Paige

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I am, I am all that’s inside you… I am, I am evil burning through!

Have you ever been bitten by a cobra? If not, this is probably the best opportunity you will ever have in your life to finally feel the powerful venom of a spellbinding snake flowing through your veins in the form of old school Heavy Metal, and I’m sure you’ll just love the experience. I’m talking about the stunning Canadian metaller Brittany Paige, better known for her onstage moniker Kobra Paige, the fiery frontwoman of Canadian Heavy Metal band Kobra And The Lotus. Are you ready for a metallic snake bite?

Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, Kobra is a classically trained singer and pianist, having completed Grade 8 in vocals and Grade 6 in piano with The Royal Conservatory of Music, before forming Kobra And The Lotus in 2008 together with guitarist Chris Swenson and drummer Griffin Kissack. She said she was doing classical training from when she was very young until she lost interest in it, getting into Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll during her high school years especially because there was something in heavy music with a strong connection to what she loved the most in classical music, allowing her to explore her true voice. “I felt it was an extremely natural progression because metal allows for that chest voice to be used”, she explained. In addition, she mentioned she was going to university without a real intention of doing music seriously, although she truly wanted to start her own metal band anyway. After starting singing and writing music she felt so passionate and alive she decided to go ahead with her music career, which also meant the end of university for her.

Despite not pursuing a career in classical music, the classical training was essential for our blonde bombshell to learn the art of singing and how to properly take good care of her voice. “I’m so scared of that because I can’t just buy a new guitar. I only have this one instrument and you don’t want to blow it, so absolutely the breath exercises and the tools that I learned from it have very much helped, made me more knowledgeable”, she said in one of her interviews. Well, she said she was blown away at a Judas Priest concert after the band played their thunderous classic Painkiller, and she also fell in love for the powerful multi-layered voice by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, so it makes total sense for her to be so worried about her voice as we all know how demanding singing like Rob Halford and Robert Plant can be to any mortal person, right?

Still under the name Brittany Paige, she released with Kobra And The Lotus their debut album Out of the Pit, in 2009, before adopting the name Kobra Paige and releasing two more albums with the band, the self-titled Kobra and the Lotus in 2012 and their most recent full-length album High Priestess in 2014, as well as an EP with cover versions for renowned Canadian rock bands entitled Words of the Prophets in 2015, and a 7″ vinyl EP named Zombie also in 2015, released as a Halloween treat and containing the songs Zombie and Remember Me. She also took part in the Heavy Metal/Hard Rock project Tony Gabriele’s Orbynot, recording vocals for their 2012 album Try to Stop Me, and is constantly lending her voice to the metal army known as Metal All Stars, sharing the stage with iconic musicians such as Tim “Ripper” Owens, Ross the Boss, Vinny Appice and Paul Di’Anno, and more recently to the cult Melodic Power Metal act Kamelot during their latest world tour. And you better get ready, because Kobra And The Lotus announced back in November 2015 they are gearing up for their fourth full-length album, a double disc entitled Prevail, to be released in a not-so-distant future (you can pre-order it HERE).

There are several videos on YouTube where you can enjoy her electrifying vocals and looks, and more important than that, feel the remarkable shift in her voice through the years. As a “few” suggestions, I believe you can take a listen at the old school thrashy tunes Snake Pit, Ride Like Sugar and Cynical Wasteland, the thunderous Welcome To My Funeral and I Am, I Am, the sexy heavy ballad Black Velvet, the Power Metal epicness of 50 Shades Of Evil and Forever One, the band’s thrilling cover versions for Motörhead’s all-time classic Ace of Spades and Rush’s groovy anthem The Spirit Of Radio, and their awesome performance at the famous festival Bloodstock Open Air in 2012. When asked about that change, Kobra said it happened mainly from their first to their second album, when she started following a direction where she felt more comfortable with her voice, sounding more organic, honest and authentic, and also evolving with the other band members in terms of skills and songwriting.

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Based on her vocal style and the music played by Kobra and The Lotus, you might think her biggest influences come only from traditional Heavy Metal, like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, who obviously had a huge impact on her life and who she would simply love to tour with. However, our gorgeous Kobra is a fan of all types of music, from old school metal the likes of Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.) and Iced Earth, to Folk/Viking Metal such as Eluveitie and Amon Amarth, to obviously classical music, in special German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven. As pretty much all successful musicians, she doesn’t stick to only one music genre, which helps her evolve as a singer and songwriter by expanding her horizons and bringing to her mind huge amounts of creativity and passion.

As expected for such a charismatic persona like Kobra, she was invited to take part on an interesting documentary called Soaring Highs and Brutal Lows: The Voices of Women in Metal after her performance at the famous Metal Female Voices Fest in 2013, touring then with other female vocalists in different festivals and telling their own stories in the world of heavy music. Talking about the life on the road, Kobra said once that “any person obviously has to be really into heavy metal, living and breathing for it, in order to be on the road constantly”, and in regards to being a beautiful woman among so many male metalheads, she said that one of the funniest things that ever happened to her on tour was when Kobra and The Lotus were touring around Canada the first time and she got a lot of questions like “are you the merch girl?”, surprising them all the minute she got onstage.

Her hobbies and interests are also very common for most of us, especially if you enjoy more physical stuff such as kickboxing and hiking on a mountain. Moreover, as she’s so focused on her music career and loves all things music so much, she has also nurtured an interest in musical theater, something she used to do at a younger age, looking into some Broadway scoring to improve her skills and capacity for innovation. One curious detail about her is that, even after spending so much time on the road with the band, she’s an avid traveler, always searching for exotic destinations to visit and new cultures to learn about.

Lastly, in case you haven’t noticed yet, our metal viper has the tattoo of a dream catcher on her arm, something very meaningful to her since she was a little girl. Her mom used to take her to sun dances, increasing Native American influences on her while she was growing up. Besides, she used to have constant nightmares until she was 13, when her parents put a dream catcher over her bed as a protective symbol, which ended up working really well for her. I’m pretty sure her nightmares are long gone by now, not due to the dream catcher but mainly because of her badass attitude and inner strength. In other words, I can’t think of any entity brave enough to disturb the peace of our headbanging cobra, and if anyone or anything dares to do so, they will mercilessly have their asses kicked pretty bad.

Kobra Paige’s Official Facebook page
Kobra Paige’s Official Twitter
Kobra Paige’s Official Instagram

Kobra And The Lotus’ Official Facebook page
Kobra And The Lotus’ Official Twitter

“I am who I am and this is my voice; if it’s not bad-ass enough for some people, that’s just too bad.” – Kobra Paige