Metal Chick of the Month – Ambre Vourvahis

I will not give up… I will not stand down!

Greece, France and Germany are three countries well known for their immensurable contributions to rock and metal music, and here on The Headbanging Moose how about we unite all three and have an absolute blast with our metal lady of the month of July? That’s exactly what you’ll get with the talented, gorgeous vocalist Ambre Vourvahis, the new frontwoman for German Symphonic Metal act Xandria, and a woman who definitely knows how to add tons of passion and feeling to her already powerful vocal lines. Having said all that, are you ready to join us and Ambre in this short but sweet tribute to one of the most promising names of the Symphonic Metal scene worldwide?

Half-Greek and half-French, but currently residing in Germany, the mesmerizing Ambre Vourvahis was already singing in choirs and musicals when she was in middle school, saying in one of her interviews that her life has always revolved around music, although she continued her studies in literature and philosophy and concluded it with a philosophy degree while at the same time she was still dreaming of making music, singing and going to concerts (which she confessed she sometimes did instead of going to class, just like all of us metalheads have already done at a given point in our lives). She said she started listening to metal music when she was around 11 years old, saying metal has been a crucial part of her whole life, and let’s say it’s quite easy to notice that by the way she sings, always putting her heart and soul into her performances.

Just a few weeks ago, our Greek goddess was announced as the new vocalist of Xandria, and in her own words, “I am beyond happy to be part of this adventure, I gave everything I had on the songs that are about to come and I love every single one of them. I hope you will do too. I can’t wait to meet you all and hear about your own musical journey.” Combining atmospheric, delicate vocals with harsh, visceral roars, her potent and versatile voice fits perfectly with the new musical direction of the band, which can already be seen in their new single title Reborn (which you can also stream on Spotify). Formed in 1994 in Bielefeld, a city in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Xandria have already had in their career the impressive number of eight vocalists, those being Nicole Tobien, Lisa Middelhauve, Kerstin Bischof, Manuela Kraller, Dianne van Giersbergen, Lisa Middelhauve, Aeva Maurelle, and now our metal lady Ambre Vourvahis. Accompanied by fellow musicians Robert Klawonn on the guitars, Tim Schwarz on bass and Dimitrios Gatsios on drums, as well as of course Ambre on vocals, the newly formed outfit around band leader, main songwriter, composer and guitarist Marco Heubaum is ready to bring its impressive career to the next level.

“Xandria is reborn… and the first sign of the return to life is the respectively titled song. Like before, Xandria are taking you on a voyage to your imagination, and the emotional and varied voice of new frontwoman Ambre Vourvahis will show you the way there with more facets then ever – prepare for some surprises! The new line up around mastermind Marco Heubaum will definitely start a whole new chapter that is fascinating and fresh, but still genuinely Xandria. Because this is what Xandria always has been – a voyager and explorer in the inspiring world of symphonic and heavy music. And now it is reborn,” commented the band about this new phase in their career, with Ambre also having some words to say about her new band. “I knew the band personally for a long time now and during their break Marco and I started to work on music for a possible project, while at the same time he was writing already some new Xandria songs, and then he thought my voice would fit very well on them, too. In the end we even took some of the ideas for that project into Xandria as it was fitting also really well actually and brought some new elements and diversity.”

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Although nothing is known about the new album yet, Ambre seems to be very excited and can’t wait to meet the band’s fans on the road. “I feel grateful, especially with the overwhelming warm welcome I got so far by the wonderful Xandria fans,” said our raven-haired diva, and I bet you can’t wait to listen to the follow-up to their 2017 album Theater of Dimensions and to see Ambre taking the stages by storm when the band begins their tour to promote their upcoming album. By the way, starting this September the band will embark on a massive European double headlining tour with Austrian Melodic/Symphonic Power Metal band Visions of Atlantis, inviting fans to dive deep into breathtaking soundscapes of Symphonic Metal, and hopefully that tour will also be extended to other places such as North and South America, Japan and Australia. “We want to plan a lot of tours, in as many countries as we can. But especially continue to make music that will be exciting for us and our fans,” said Ambre, also mentioning that she wants to thank all of the band’s fans in person and discover their musical journeys and taste as well, as she really loves to talk about music. Well, I bet you don’t want to miss that opportunity when Ambre hits the road together with Xandria, right?

You can also find Ambre doing the female vocals for Fragment Soul, a Progressive Metal band formed in 2016 in Greece which has another metal lady featured already on our webzine, the charming Heike Langhans, as a special member on vocals. How can she sing in such different bands at the same time, one might ask? Well, Ambre mentioned in one of her interviews that she loves to challenge herself vocally and to try new things, and as she can do both clean and guttural vocals it won’t be a surprise if other musicians and bands start recruiting her to be part of their new albums or live concerts, consequently leading her to visit more and more cities and countries while on tour. Hence, let’s show our total support to Ambre in this new phase of her career, and hope that sooner than later we’ll be able to witness her kicking some ass onstage with her bandmates from Xandria in our hometowns, showing once again why Symphonic Metal has always been the perfect place for skillful and hard working women who rock our world like our up-and-coming Greek vocalist.

Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Facebook page
Ambre Vourvahis’ Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official Facebook page
Xandria’s Official Instagram
Xandria’s Official YouTube channel
Xandria’s Official Twitter

“I trained and developed my singing on my own (especially the harsh vocals) as well as with vocal coaches for many years, and still today – there is always so much more to learn and to achieve so I will probably never stop working with a professional vocal coach.” – Ambre Vourvahis

Album Review – Majesty Of Revival / Pinnacle (2022)

One of Ukraine’s most prominent bands returns with their fifth full-length opus, continuing with their sonic experimentations while still loyal to their metal roots.

Following up on the successful releases of their 2016 album Dualism and their 2019 album Timeless, Uzhhorod, Ukraine-based Symphonic Power Metal explorers Majesty Of Revival are back in action with their fifth full-length installment, entitled Pinnacle, continuing with their eccentric experimentations while at the same time remaining loyal to their metal roots. Recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by the band’s mastermind Dimitriy Pavlovskiy at Beast Sound Studios and displaying a stylish artwork by Ursula Tabaka, Pinnacle is about the experience of our thoughts, about casual situations that happen around us or with ourselves, problems that surround us daily like domestic violence, blind idolizing, struggles in front of big challenges, leadership, money issues and so on, consisting of 13 cross-genre and progressive compositions filled with subjective visual descriptions and tactile audio figures carefully brought into being by the aforementioned Dimitriy Pavlovskiy on vocals and guitars, Myroslav Danko also on the guitars, Vitalii Popfalushi on bass, Maestone on keyboards and Marvin on drums. In other words, you’re in for a ride with those Ukrainian metallers who will take you on a journey through the vast lands of progressiveness in the name of good music with their newborn opus.

Dimitriy and Myroslav begin their DragonForce-inspired riff attack in the opening tune Open, blending Progressive and Symphonic Metal to the pounding beats by Marvin, while You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG) reminds me of some of the best creations by Mastodon with their own Ukrainian touch, presenting an amazing job done by Vitalii on bass by generating a venomous paradox with the stylish keys by Maestone. In Rebellion we have powerful lyrics declaimed by Myroslav (“Fear has been born among us / Tied our hands with hardest chains / Cowardice grows like mushrooms under autumn rain / Left no word unspoken / Though desecration will touch all of you said / Let this silence to be banned / Let this silence be broken”) amidst a melodic, Hard Rock-ish sonority, followed by Mindcrime, featuring vocalist David Readman of Pink Cream 69, bringing forward another round of the band’s whimsical sounds with Maestone kicking some ass on keyboards supported by the Stratovarius-inspired beats by Marvin. Then featuring vocalist Kärtsy Hatakka (Waltari), trumpetist Volodymyr Shchobak and guitarist Vasil Dovganych, the band offers us all Fool, an imposing tune also presenting elements from rap music in its vocals, and Deliverance, featuring violinist Veronika Shestakova, where the band keeps embellishing the airwaves with their Progressive and Symphonic Power Metal.

In At All Costs a change in pace fills our ears with Dimitriy’s melancholic vocals embraced by a serene musicality led by Maestone’s keys and piano, resulting in a stunning ballad by those Ukrainian metallers, and it’s then time to hit the dance floor to the sound of the groovy Bury Me Part II: Dig Me Up, where Vitalii is once again on fire with his metallic bass punches. The band shows no sign of slowing down in Citylights; quite the contrary, they keep firing their Melodic Power Metal riffs, solos and keys for our total delight, which is also the case in the hard-hitting extravaganza Stone, with Dimitriy also delivering his demonic side through his deep, enraged roars. Things Are Not What They Seem, featuring guest vocals by Anzhelika Zyzych, brings forward more of their whimsical lyrics (“Sweet misguidance crucified us / Funeral bells won’t stop your yearning / Now its time for tables turning / Demolition in progress / But nothing will force you to confess / Desolation, commotion / Curtain call your emotions”) supported by a huge dosage of Progressive Rock and Metal, whereas their second to last explosion of melodious sounds, progressiveness and insanity comes in the form of Guardians, with Vitalii, Maestone and Marvin generating a stunning wall of sounds in the background. Lastly, the acoustic guitars by Dimitriy and Myroslav will soothe your soul in Overcome?, putting a melancholic, delicate ending to such multi-layered and detailed album, and if you go for the BandCamp edition you’ll also receive two bonus tracks, one being the instrumental version for Stone while the other, named Вартові, is “Guardians” but with Ukrainian lyrics.

Dimitriy and the boys are waiting to hear from you on Facebook and on Instagram, where you can find news about the band, their tour dates and so on, and don’t forget to also subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their intricate and melodic creations. The excellent Pinnacle, which is available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from the band’s own BandCamp page (or simply click HERE for all locations where you ca buy or stream the album, including a very interesting USB wooden flash drive version), will not only please all longtime fans of the band, but it will also attract the attention of newcomers to the world of Majesty Of Revival, proving once again this Ukrainian outfit is undoubtedly going places thanks to their undeniable creativity and feeling. If the album will become the pinnacle of their career no one knows for sure, but we must admit it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to top their own creations with each album released.

Best moments of the album: You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG), Mindcrime, Stone and Guardians.

Worst moments of the album: Fool.

Released in 2022 Massive Sound Recordings

Track listing
1. Open 4:04
2. You Have A Message (Welcome to GULAG) 4:38
3. Rebellion 3:46
4. Mindcrime 5:01
5. Fool 4:37
6. Deliverance 4:17
7. At All Costs 3:11
8. Bury Me Part II: Dig Me Up 3:24
9. Citylights 4:02
10. Stone 6:12
11. Things Are Not What They Seem 4:17
12. Guardians 4:54
13. Overcome? 3:35

BandCamp bonus tracks
14.Stone (Instrumental version) 6:12
15.Вартові 4:54

Band members
Dimitriy Pavlovskiy – vocals, guitars, choirs
Myroslav Danko – guitars, vocals, choirs
Vitalii Popfalushi – bass, vocals, choirs
Maestone – keyboards, backing vocals, choirs
Marvin – drums

Guest musicians
Kärtsy Hatakka – vocals on “Fool”
Vasil Dovganych – guitars on “Fool”
Volodymyr Shchobak – trumpet on “Fool”
David Readman – vocals on “Mindcrime”
Veronika Shestakova – violin on “Deliverance”
Anzhelika Zyzych – female voice on “Things Are Not What They Seem”, choirs
Rostik Groshick, Andy Brok & Yriy – choirs

Metal Chick of the Month – Lauren Hart

Scar weaver, sew the flesh on my fears…

It’s time to turn up the heat and beat the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Northern Hemisphere here at The Headbanging Moose with one of the most electrifying women from the current metal scene worldwide. Owner of a beyond powerful, dynamic and versatile voice, she will crush you like an insect not only with her deep roars and stunning clean vocals, but also with her high-octane onstage performance. I’m talking about the multi-talented Lauren Hart, the unstoppable frontwoman for Los Angeles, California-based Groove Metal powerhouse Once Human, setting fire to this month of March and keeping the flames of heavy music burning bright wherever she goes for the total delight of us metalheads.

Born on April 8, 1986 in Anaheim, California, but raised in Australia, Lauren self taught piano as a toddler and guitar by the age of 14, proving she was more than ready for stardom at a very early stage in her life. It was in 2014 when she was discovered by former Senior Vice President of A&R for Roadrunner Records and record producer Monte Conner, who put her in touch with Canadian-American record producer and guitarist Logan Mader for a production deal; after the two met, they decided to start a whole new band and started to work on Once Human. That being said, there’s no Lauren Hart without Once Human and vice-versa, which means we’ll focus on the history of the band for a while before talking about some other specific details about our metal diva.

As aforementioned, Once Human was formed in 2014 in Los Angeles, California by Lauren and Logan, with the band’s current lineup being comprised of guitarist Max Karon, bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Dillon Trollope. In a few of her interviews, Logan explained how Once Human came together. “It all kind of started as soon as I met Logan. I was sent to him because of my video I made, a guitar playing video which was actually pretty shit. I don’t know how I ended up in the hands of these big people but I sat down in the studio with I think was my $99 guitar and my crappy amp and I just started playing these metal riffs and recorded it and put it up on Youtube and Facebook and next thing I know, I’m getting to go into Logan Mader’s studio because I guess Monty Connor (A&R) saw it and he said, ‘Why don’t you try and build something around this girl, let’s have her in and see what happens’. So I came in and straight away we really hit it off and started writing together and I guess he’s normally used to people coming in and wanting to do radio music and a lot more commercial things and I didn’t want any part of that. In fact I didn’t want to do any career singing, I just wanted to do the metal riffs that I love so much and so I think he was taken aback by that because he spent so much time doing the radio stuff and yet he comes from heavy metal, that’s his soul. So when he was able to write heavy metal again with me, I feel like something awoke in him and we just started writing and never stopped,” said Lauren, who also mentioned the original name for the band was going to be Once We Were Human just because of the way the world is going nowadays, because the fall of humanity and the uprising of social media.

Mixing aggression with vulnerability and downright gut-wrenching growls with ethereal clean vocals, Once Human have already released three studio albums, all of course with Lauren on vocals, those being their 2015 debut The Life I Remember (where she also played piano and additional guitars), their 2017 sophomore opus Evolution, and more recently Scar Weaver, not to mention their 2018 live album Stage of Evolution and their 2022 EP Erasure. Furthermore, Once Human also appeared in the compilations Maximum Metal Vol. 210 (released in 2015 by Metal Hammer) and Le Sampler RockHard 159 (released by RockHard in 2015), both with the song The Life I Remember, and in the compilation Le Sampler RockHard 172 (released by RockHard in 2017) with the song Gravity. If you want to have a very good taste of the power, groove and electricity flowing from the music by Once Human, as well as the mesmerizing visuals of their official videos, you can enjoy on YouTube the songs Eye Of Chaos, Erasure, Cold Arrival, Deadlock, Sledgehammer, Only In Death, Gravity, Dark Matter, a live version for Flock Of Flesh, and tons of non-official videos of their live performances all around the world, as well as stream all of their furious creations on Spotify. On a side note, there’s one song and video, for the title-track Scar Weaver, that means a lot to Lauren. “The Scar Weaver track is about dealing with my anxiety and catastrophic thoughts. I give a bad thought (which is ONLY in my head) a true reality by feeding it energy – thus, giving it life, to grow and completely engulf my mind. I sew the flesh on my fears,” she commented.

Apart from her career with Once Human, Lauren can also be seen doing additional vocals for American Progressive/Melodic Power Metal band Kamelot live since 2018, having also recorded additional vocals for the songs Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire), Mindfall Remedy and The Proud and the Broken, from their 2018 album The Shadow Theory, and participated in their 2020 live album I Am the Empire: Live from the 013 singing the song Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) live with the band. Another band that had the pleasure of having Lauren doing some vocals together with them was International Blackened Death/Groove Metal act Sinsaenum, with whom she recorded the song Sacred Martyr, from their 2018 album Repulsion for Humanity.

Lauren also mentioned in some of her interviews how she ended up singing with Kamelot. “Well I was on tour with Kobra and the Lotus and Kobra Paige told me that Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) had his eye on me for a while because, as you know he’s taken other girls on tour, like Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) as they always have a guest feature. He always has his eye out for someone he can take for the next record. Kobra came up to me after one show in somewhere like Arizona and says ‘Hey, do you want to go and play a show with Kamelot?, you’re going to be opening up for Iron Maiden and Ghost’… I was like ‘uhm yes’!” Moreover, the experience with Kamelot also had a huge impact on her singing style. “Well, in the very beginning of Once Human, I didn’t want to clean-sing. I was scared. I said, ‘Screaming only.’ And Logan made me sing – I guess he heard something in me and knew I could do it — but on the first two albums, you can hear me singing, but it’s quite reluctant. I think it sounds held back and unsure. But on this album, on Scar Weaver, it’s full force. And that is definitely 100% because of Kamelot. You gotta come out of your shell with that band. You’re filling some big shoes – you’re filling Alissa White-Gluz, you’re filling Elize Ryd, you’re filling the shoes of these big amazing singer. So I couldn’t be shy about my vocals anymore. So doing it every night onstage, singing songs like “Liar Liar’ and ‘Sacrimony,’ you will come out of your shell. You’re thrown in the deep end. I became really familiar with my clean-singing voice, and my own style.”

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Still regarding her vocal technique and style, Lauren said that apart from the growth from the years with Kamelot and her daily singing she tries to stay fit, to be really connected with her voice and to know her limits, learning how to breathe and speak to an audience without a microphone, and learning how to project in a healthy way and becoming aware of diaphragm support. In addition, she also mentioned her work with vocal coach Melissa Cross, and with laryngologist Dr. Michael Johns to make sure everything stays healthy. “The style that I do, false chord screaming, is a lot of air, all the time. You have to be in really good shape to pull it off. So for me, I feel like being really fit and staying in the gym and making sure your cardio is up to par – I think that helps me onstage. I also did a lot of voice work – not singing, but voice, which is like breathing work, in a theater school. That’s what I incorporate into my screaming and my singing, to not do any damage and keep my breath down in my diaphragm,” she said, also mentioning a not-so-fun experience she had in her teens. “So when I was a teenager listening to metal, I had an ex-boyfriend who was in a band and I would always go to his rehearsals and after they were done rehearsing, I would always come in and they’d free jam and I’d scream on the microphone and I remember always tasting blood in my throat afterwards. Back then there was no YouTube, no internet really to look up whether or not that was okay so I thought ‘I’m doing it right because I taste blood’! Obviously, though there was something very wrong there.”

Lauren has several idols in her career and in her personal life, of course, including huge names the likes of Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Joe Duplantier (Gojira) and Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), also mentioning Black Metal in general as one of her influences when writing and composing music. When asked about her favourite European bands, she said “well my favorite metal album when I was a kid was Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. I learned to drive to that album and I don’t recommend learning to drive to that album because you’ll get a lot of speeding tickets! But them and Opeth and I love Strapping Young Lad, loved Devin Townsend and Meshuggah. My first ever album that got me into metal was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy and that was sort of the gateway as I wanted to be a guitar player and that was, ‘Wow listen to this guy!’ I listened to that record over and over again and quickly it went from that to Dimmu Borgir, I don’t know how it happened but that’s how it went.”

Having already toured with renowned acts such as Dragonforce, Cradle Of Filth, Kobra And The Lotus, and Fear Factory, our beloved vocalist said that she still dreams of touring with other bands, of course, including Devin Townsend, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, and Meshuggah, and of playing in Wacken Open Air with her band Once Human, complementing by saying she really enjoys to be on the road and that she would love visiting South America. In one of her interviews, Lauren talked about the beauty of screaming in small venues, where she can make eye to eye contact with the crowd and closely feel the reaction from her fans. Also, when questioned if the female-fronted label in metal should continue or cease to exist, she said that “I can see how that separation can cause that, I see the conflict but I also see a lot of my fans, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fans on Patreon – a lot of them are huge fans of female-fronted metal, they’ll go to every show, they’ll buy all the merch and it’s a genre they are just in love with, I don’t know, there are good points and bad,” mentioning she would love to work with other prominent women in metal such as Angela Gossow, Alissa White-Gluz, and Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast.

Lauren was also asked in an interview if she has ever considered returning to acting, but she said that because of the competitiveness of it she doesn’t believe it’s something that she would pursue in her career despite having studied method acting for a number of years. “But you know what, method acting is all about not acting at all, but being honest, 100% honest with yourself. So it is very therapeutic, and I do believe it;’s helped me with my stage presence. Being comfortable in my own skin, being honest. Because people can feel that – they can feel when someone’s being fake. The audience can connect when you’re being true. So it’s definitely helped me be okay with being myself.” And if you want to know more curious facts about Lauren, her career, how she manages to sing and scream with so much passion and energy, there are several interviews on YouTube that I’m sure you’ll enjoy such as one called Screaming when SICK?! What happens…, one interview where she talks about how she learned screaming, another one where she talks about how she found her voice and plays a game called ‘How Well Do You Know Your Bandmate’, and a very relaxed one where she reads mean and not-so-mean YouTube comments about herself and her band. As you can see, Lauren Hart is everywhere, and if you consider yourself a true metalhead it’s time to know more about one of the driving forces of the current metal scene in the United States and bang your head nonstop to her undisputed vocals.

Lauren Hart’s Official Facebook page
Lauren Hart’s Official Instagram
Once Human’s Official Facebook page
Once Human’s Official Instagram

“I force myself to go places that I don’t normally want to go. I force myself to look at things that I’d typically want to not see.” – Lauren Hart

Album Review – Celtic Hills / Mystai Keltoy (2021)

A massive metal attack made in Italy offering us all 11 tracks that speak of ancient alien civilizations, European pyramids, legends and historical facts of Friuli.

3.5rating

celtic-hills-mystai-keltoy-2021Mystai Keltoy, an enigmatic name that alludes to the Elusian Mysteries, is also the name of the brand new album by an Italian Melodic Power/Thrash Metal entity formed in 2010 that goes by the epic name of Celtic Hills, offering us fans of heavy music 11 tracks that speak of ancient alien civilizations, European pyramids, legends and historical facts of Friuli. Recorded and produced at The Groove Factory in Udine, Italy by Michele Guaitoli, and displaying a classy artwork representing the myth of the ancient visitors hand painted by artist Sheila Franco, Mystai Keltoy is a journey through several metal styles from early Thrash Metal to modern-day Power Metal, showcasing all the talent of the band comprised of Jonathan Vanderbilt on vocals and guitar, Jacopo Novello on bass, and Simone Cescutti on drums.

The Iron Maiden-like riffs by Jonathan and the crushing drums by Simone kick off the band’s metal extravaganza in The Light, blending the magic of traditional Heavy Metal with the acidity of the Speed Metal played by Megadeth. And let’s keep banging our heads to the smashing drums by Simone in Blood is not Water, accompanied by the thunderous bass by Jacopo, reminding me of some classic compositions by Overkill, Exodus and Metal Church, whereas powerful backing vocals add an extra touch of epicness to the imposing The Tomorrow of Our Sons, supporting Jonathan and his old school vocal lines. Putting the pedal to the metal, the trio fires the absolutely pulverizing battle hymn The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo, where all three musicians are in total sync with their incendiary riffs, bass punches and pounding drums, resulting in a lesson in Italian Heavy and Thrash Metal. There’s no time to breathe as those Italian metallers deliver another kick-ass tune entitled The Landing of the Gods, with Jonathan slashing his stringed axe nonstop.

Already Lost is epic and bold form the very first second, with the trio being on fire throughout the entire song which “forgets” their previous Speed Metal and invests into a pure Melodic Metal sonority. Then a futuristic atmosphere walks hand in hand with the metal demolition spearheaded by Simone’s drums in Falling Star, where it’s impressive how only three musicians can generate such dense sound; followed by Battle Of Frigidium, once again drinking from the same fountain as renowned acts the likes of Manowar, Iron Maiden and Iced Earth, with Jonathan’s vocals getting darker and more enraged as the music progresses. Featuring guest vocals by Italian singer Germana Noage (Aetherna, ƝOΔGE), Celtic Hills offer us fans a more melodic side of their music à la Nightwish, After Forever and Lacuna Coil in Eden, while Temple of Love never really takes off albeit sounding similar to the previous song, and never showing the same amount of adrenaline form the rest of the album. Finally, closing the album it’s time for a Melodic Power Metal tune entirely sung in Italian entitled Allitteratio, with Jacopo and Simone kicking some ass with their groovy and heavy kitchen.

celtic-hills-2021If you’re curious to see how the fusion of heavy music and legends of ancient civilizations sounds, you can enjoy Mystai Keltoy in its entirety on Spotify, but if I were you I would certainly purchase a copy of the album by clicking HERE. And, of course, you can start following Celtic Hills on Facebook and on Instagram for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the band. Inspired by the history of the populations that inhabited the area of present-day Carnia and Friuli, as aforementioned, but seen with a different perspective, Mystai Keltoy will blow your mind so heavy and detailed it sounds, leaving you eager for more as soon as it’s over and, therefore, keeping the fires of Italian metal burning bright thanks to the amazing job done by the unstoppable Celtic Hills.

Best moments of the album: The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo, The Landing of the Gods and Eden.

Worst moments of the album: Temple of Love.

Released in 2021 Elevate Records

Track listing  
1. The Light 3:16
2. Blood is not Water 4:05
3. The Tomorrow of Our Sons 3:29
4. The 7-Headed Dragon of Osoppo 4:02
5. The Landing of the Gods 3:27
6. Already Lost 3:51
7. Falling Star 3:58
8. Battle Of Frigidium 4:59
9. Eden 3:54
10. Temple of Love 3:10
11. Allitteratio 3:20

Band members
Jonathan Vanderbilt – vocals, guitar
Jacopo Novello – bass
Simone Cescutti – drums

Guest musician
Germana Noage – vocals on “Eden”

Album Review – Tragedian / Seven Dimensions (2021)

This multicultural Melodic Power Metal unity hailing from Germany is ready to enlighten our destiny to the sound of their fourth full-length album, presenting to the world a new and reinvigorated lineup.

The esoteric and the obscure. Tales of the eternal fight between darkness and light… Formed by arcane energies. The mysteries that lay beyond human recognition. We are Tragedian, Power Metal that enlightens your destiny!

Formed in 2002 by American guitarist, songwriter and producer Gabriele Palermo, Tragedian are a multicultural metal band from Hamburg, Germany with a range of influences from Heavy Metal to Speed and Melodic Power Metal, taking their favorite elements from each genre and making their own interpretation. Currently comprised of the aforementioned Gabriele Palermo on the guitars together with Venezuelan vocalist Joan Pabón, German bassist Dawid Wieczorek, German keyboardist and pianist  Denis Scheither, and Italian drummer Nicolò Bernini, the band is about to unleash their fourth full-length album, entitled Seven Dimensions, the first with Joan, Dawid and Denis on the lineup. Produced by Gabriele himself, post-produced and mixed by Eike Freese at Chameleon Studios in Hamburg, and featuring an ethereal artwork by Polish artist Piotr Szafraniec (Archart Studio), Seven Dimensions takes the band to a different direction of Melodic Metal, showcasing nine new, electrifying anthems plus three previously released tracks reworked by the quintet.

Blazing guitars and whimsical keys kick off the Melodic Metal extravaganza titled Rising Rage, with Nicolò dictating the rhythm with his classic beats in a fast, harmonious and epic manner just the way we like it, and with Joan proving why he was chosen to be the band’s new lead singer. Then more of Gabriele’s slashing riffs and solos penetrate deep inside our ears in Aloneless, where Dawid and Nicolò’s low-tuned, rumbling sounds make a vibrant paradox with Denis’ classy keys. Put differently, it will certainly please all fans of bands like Stratovarius, Rhapsody of Fire and Angra, whereas investing in a more direct sonority, the band blends the electricity of Power Metal with the rebelliousness of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock in Out of the Dark, featuring guest guitars by Dan Palmer (Zebra Head, Death By Stereo), and the final result is simply awesome. And putting the pedal to the metal the quintet fires the melodic hurricane Darkest of My Days, where Joan is amazing on vocals supported by the unstoppable drums by Nicolò, not to mention the razor-edge guitar lines by Gabriele.

In Bringer of Dreams, featuring guest vocals by Wade Black (Crimson Glory, Leatherwolf), after a not-so-promising start the music fortunately evolves into another solid feast of Melodic Power Metal by Tragedian, with Joan and Wade bringing joy to our hearts with their dynamic vocal duo; and it’s time for a power ballad led by Joan’s passionate vocals and Denis’ melancholic piano notes entitled Crying in the Rain, also presenting background female vocals which bring an additional touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit going on for too long. Back to a more imposing and epic musicality, Nicolò kicks ass once again on drums while Gabriele keeps extracting sheer adrenaline from his axe in Enlightened, all spiced up by a classic Stratovarius-inspired keyboard solo by Denis, followed by an avalanche of classic riffs and nonstop drums in Forevermore, with the groovy bass punches by Dawid bringing thunder to the music. Needless to say, it can’t get any more melodic than this.

Destiny sounds relatively generic compared to the rest of the album, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, though, it’s just that it falls flat after a while despite the solid instrumental pieces blasted by the quintet. Then Joan showcases all his vocal potency and range is his mother tongue in Para Siempre (Forever), a very entertaining tune (and of course very special and personal for Joan himself) that results in a lecture in Spanish Melodic Metal; and those power metallers are never tired of embellishing the airwaves with their stylish sounds like what they do in The Journey, where Gabriele and Denis are once again in absolute sync form start to finish. Guest vocalist Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) adds his touch of melancholy and epicness to the inspiring ballad Forces of the Light, where we’re invited to let Tragedian’s enfolding music soothe our souls while Joan and Zak give a lecture in vocal performance, closing the digital edition of the album. However, you should definitely go for the CD version of Seven Dimensions, as the bonus tracks Crying in the Rain (duet version) and Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) are definitely worth the investment in the physical edition, especially the orchestral version for the embracing ballad with Zak Stevens.

As already mentioned, the addition of Joan, Dawid and Denis to Tragedian’s lineup brought a new share of epicness, melody and creativity to Gabriele’s brainchild, with Seven Dimensions perfectly depicting the band’s renewed energy throughout each one of the albums’ ten vibrant tracks (or twelve, if we also count the two bonus tracks of the CD version). Having said that, let’s all show the guys from Tragedian how much we admire their music, and that they’ve chosen to follow an exciting path in this new phase of their career by giving them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, by streaming more of their music on Spotify, and especially by purchasing a copy of Seven Dimensions or by streaming it in full by clicking HERE. This is first-class, international Melodic Power Metal that deserves our attention and recognition, my friends, and let’s hope Gabriele and his melodic army keep delivering sheer awesomeness to all of us with all of their future releases, always displaying their refined techniques, and of course, their passion for heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Rising Rage, Out of the Dark, Forevermore and Forces of the Light.

Worst moments of the album: Crying in the Rain and Destiny.

Released in 2021 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Rising Rage 4:19
2. Aloneless 4:03
3. Out of the Dark 3:42
4. Darkest of My Days 3:42
5. Bringer of Dreams 5:35
6. Crying in the Rain 4:48
7. Enlightened 5:01
8. Forevermore 4:13
9. Destiny 4:19
10. Para Siempre (Forever) 3:37
11. The Journey 4:32
12. Forces of the Light 6:35

CD Edition bonus tracks
13. Crying in the Rain (duet version) 4:49
14. Forces of the Light (full orchestral version) 4:50

Band members
Joan Pabón – vocals
Gabriele Palermo – guitar
Dawid Wieczorek – bass
Denis Scheither – keyboards, piano
Nicolò Bernini – drums

Guest musicians
Wade Black – vocals on “Bringer of Dreams”
Zak Stevens – vocals on “Forces of the Light”
Dan Palmer – guitars on “Out Of The Dark”

Album Review – Unleash The Archers / Abyss (2020)

The Matriarch is ready to eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss to the sound of the brand new album by one of the best Canadian metal bands of all time.

Formed in 2007 in Vancouver, the biggest city in the stunning province of British Columbia, Canada, the unrelenting Power/Melodic Death Metal squad known as Unleash The Archers has sharpened their arrows and hit the bullseye once again with their fifth full-length album, entitled Abyss. Featuring ten new tracks, this adventure is a concept album and a sequel to their 2017 masterpiece Apex, and was once again recorded with legendary producer Jacob Hansen of Hansen Studios in Denmark. Portraying another epic artwork, this time designed by Adam Burke (Nightjar Illustration), Abyss might not be as grandiose and breathtaking as Apex, something quite impossible to be done in my humble opinion, but it’s indeed a vibrant display of the band’s dexterity, their passion for Heavy Metal and their infinite creativity to bring forth a compelling storyline together with their music, proving why frontwoman Brittney Slayes, guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders, and drummer Scott Buchanan heave reached such high level of admiration and relevance all over the world, carving their spot in the hearts of all types of metalheads.

Smooth, serene guitar lines invite us all to join the band in their quest for metal in the opening tune Waking Dream, where Brittney already showcases all her vocal potency, gradually evolving into the epic title-track Abyss, with Grant and Andrew taking the lead with their crisp and strident riffs and solos. It will work beautifully when played live, blending their modern-day Power Metal with 80’s Glam Metal, I might say. Then again presenting an 80’s rockin’ vibe thanks to its background keys and classic beats we have Through Stars, sounding like it was taken from an old school Hard Rock album, being very pleasant while at the same time developing the story majestically told by Brittney, and when you think they’re going to slow down a little they come with an onrush of sounds titled Legacy, even bringing nuances of Black Metal added to their classic metal music. However, the music never really clicks, though, falling flat after a while (nothing to worry about, though).

In Return to Me the band brings forward a more progressive and groovier side, with Scott dictating the rhythm with his old school beats, resulting in another good composition by the quartet albeit a bit generic if compared to their older songs, whereas it’s with Soulbound that the party really starts, showcasing ass-kicking lyrics screamed by Brittney (“We race around the melted char of what was once a neutron star / And use the gravity to whip us into dark galactic rifts / Yet still somehow we can’t escape, they have no flaw, they feel no pain / These twisted shadows of the men I once condemned”) while Grant and Andrew are unstoppable with their axes in this ode to Heavy Metal. And get ready for another round of inspiring, metallic words (“Once more we’re flying fast as light / Dark matter passing in the night / Pursued by a force we can’t outrun / As we hurtle towards a dying sun / We maneuver through the remnants of a moon on the solar winds of supernovas / There is not a place to hide, the Matriarch is close behind, it’s plain to see she’s coming for us all”) in the superb Faster Than Light, bringing to our ears a stuninng Stratovarius-like feel (and an absolutely weird official video to our eyes, by the way), with all band members speeding things up and blasting sheer awesomeness for our total delectation.

After such intense tune, it’s time for a passionate performance by Brittney supported by her loyal bandmates in The Wind that Shapes the Land, with Grant and Andrew slashing our ears with their sharp riffage while Scott doesn’t stop hammering his drums throughout the song’s eight minutes of a top-of-the-line fusion of Melodic Death and Power Metal. Carry the Flame is another 80’s-inspired Hard Rock/Heavy Metal song showcasing a beautiful vocal duo between Brittney and Andrew, while Scott continues to bring the thunder to the music with his beats, all spiced up by some ass-kicking, soulful guitar solos. Lastly, in order to properly conclude the album the band brings to our ears the epic, symphonic and climatic Afterlife, a very detailed and dense composition where Brittney is once again flawless with her high-pitched, heroic vocals, accompanied by the galloping beats by Scott and the always flammable guitars by Grant and Andrew until the song’s serene and warm ending.

In a nutshell, as already mentioned, although Abyss is not on par with Apex, it will surely entertain all fans of the band while at the same time it puts a climatic conclusion to the overall story concept initiated with their 2017 album. Do not expect to listen to a new “The Matriarch”, “Call Me Immortal” or “Shadow Guide” in Abyss, but to brand new, unique compositions that have their place and purpose well defined by Unleash The Archers, and if you want to give their new album a shot you can stream it in full on Spotify or purchase a copy of it from several locations such as their own BandCamp page, Napalm Records, Apple Music, Amazon or indiemerchstore.com, among others. Also, don’t forget to follow Brittney and the boys on Facebook and on Instagram, getting up to date to all things related to one of the best metal bands of all time hailing from Canada. In the end, the Matriarch might eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss, but as long as that happens while we listen to the first-class metal blasted by Unleash The Archers, we can rest assured our souls will be free in the afterlife.

Best moments of the album: Through Stars, Soulbound, Faster Than Light and The Wind that Shapes the Land.

Worst moments of the album: Legacy and Return to Me.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Waking Dream 3:45
2. Abyss 6:44
3. Through Stars 5:34
4. Legacy 5:26
5. Return to Me 5:34
6. Soulbound 3:54
7. Faster Than Light 5:11
8. The Wind that Shapes the Land 8:36
9. Carry the Flame 4:42
10. Afterlife 7:30

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Saunders – guitar, harsh growls, additional vocals, synths
Scott Buchanan – drums

Guest musicians
Francesco Ferrini – orchestration on “Afterlife”
Ben Arscott – bass (session)

Album Review – Winter’s Verge / The Ballad of James Tig (2020)

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands returns with their most ambitious project to date, telling the story of a man who lost his family at sea seeking revenge against a sea monster.

One of Cyprus’ most successful metal bands of all time, Nicosia-based Symphonic Power Metal act Winter’s Verge has been on a roll since their inception in 2005, having released so far four studio albums and three EP’s, and building a strong reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in Cyprus with a powerful blend of Epic, Melodic and Symphonic Metal. Currently comprised of George Charalambous on vocals, Deniel Pavlovsky and Savvas Parperi on the guitars, Miguel Trapezaris on bass, Stavry Michael on keyboards and Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway on drums, Winter’s Verge’s music is highly conceptual and takes place within a mythological realm called Tiberon, with all songs and lyrics allowing fans to explore the themes, characters and locations for their own interpretation. Now in 2020, after three years in the making, the band is ready to stun us all once again with The Ballad of James Tig, their fifth full-length opus and their most ambitious projects to date, telling the story of James Tig, a man who lost his family at sea when he was a young boy and had set his life-long dream to find the legendary Killagorak, a sea monster who he believes was what killed his family when he was very young, therefore seeking revenge.

With a concept and lyrics by renowned local author and playwright Frixos Masouras, featuring a classic artwork designed by George Vasiliou, mixed and produced by vocalist George Charalambous himself, mastered by George Eracleous at Oneirism Studios, and featuring guest vocalist Teodora Stoyanova Freya (known for her work with Bulgarian Viking Metal band Freija and with a metal project called Magic of the North) playing the part of Nina in the story, The Ballad of James Tig is not just another concept storyline, but a much bolder project by Winter’s Verge with a huge sounding scope and symphonic sound, cementing the band’s name as one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.

Get ready to embark on a musical voyage together with Winter’s Verge, beginning with the symphonic and serene opening aria It Begins, with George taking the lead with his soulful vocals while his bandmates embellish the airwaves with their respective instruments, whereas the keys by Stavry and all background orchestrations are soon joined by the pounding Power Metal drums by Danny in the heavier and faster A Thousand Souls, where the band’s guitar duo Deniel and Savvas are on fire with their riffs and solos, also presenting tons of breaks and variations to make things even more impactful. Sounding very theatrical from the very first second, Dead Reckoning is a lot more symphonic than metallic, which obviously means the focus is on its melody rather than its heaviness, while George does a great job once again on vocals, and featuring Teodora as a guest vocalist for the first time we have the charming and enfolding Timeless, with the delicate piano notes by Stavry adding an extra touch of finesse to this beautiful ballad by Winter’s Verge.

Killagorak (yes, the monster itself) is a two-minute imposing, epic interlude that will embrace you and prepare your senses for the breathtaking I Accept, starting in full force spearheaded by Danny and his intricate and powerful beats while Deniel and Savvas keep slashing their strings in great fashion, once again with Teodora and George making a dynamic vocal duo for our total delight. Then we have Blood on the Foam, a pirate-inspired Metal Opera where the Progressive Power Metal played by Winter’s Verge is flawlessly intertwined with pure symphonic passages, not to mention how thunderous the bass jabs by Miguel and the drums by Danny sound; and we’re treated to one final round of Teodora’s gorgeous, operatic vocals in The Sea, offering our ears eight minutes of dark passages, introspective vocals and crushing riffs. In the end, you’ll feel absolutely mesmerized by such detailed and thrilling song, before The Ballad of James Tig, a true ballad of the seas, closes the album on a high note, with its semi-acoustic guitars and tribal beats permeating the air and putting a climatic and melancholic conclusion to the story told by Winter’s Verge.

You can get in touch with such distinguished band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their stylish music and official videos, but of course in order to show your utmost support to underground Symphonic Metal you should definitely purchase The Ballad of James Tig from your favorite retailer such as Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon, as well as stream the album in full on Spotify as soon as it’s released in the coming weeks. It’s truly mesmerizing the way Winter’s Verge told the tale of James Tig in their new album, uniting music and storytelling in a compelling way and, above all that, providing us fans of heavy music a very good reason to sail the unruly waters of the mythological realm if Tiberon together with James Tig himself, and obviously with our six talented Cypriot metallers.

Best moments of the album: A Thousand Souls, I Accept and The Sea.

Worst moments of the album: Dead Reckoning.

Released in 2020 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. It Begins 6:57
2. A Thousand Souls 4:57
3. Dead Reckoning 4:41
4. Timeless 6:57
5. Killagorak 2:11
6. I Accept 5:03
7. Blood on the Foam 6:06
8. The Sea 7:59
9. The Ballad of James Tig 4:07

Band members
George Charalambous – vocals
Deniel Pavlovsky – guitars
Savvas Parperi – guitars
Miguel Trapezaris – bass
Stavry Michael – keyboards
Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway – drums

Guest musician
Teodora Stoyanova Freya – female vocals on “Timeless”, “I Accept” and “The Sea”

Album Review – Manticora / To Live to Kill to Live (2020)

Let the Progressive Power and Thrash Metal by this Denmark-based unity mesmerize you during the 63 minutes of music found in the second part of their horror novel-inspired concept album.

Hvidovre, Denmark’s own Progressive Power/Thrash Metal unity Manticora is back in action in 2020 with their ninth full-length opus, entitled To Live to Kill to Live, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed To Kill to Live to Kill, released in 2018. This is the second part of a grandiose concept based on their 334-page horror novel (which by the way can be purchased HERE), mixed by Jacob Hansen (Primal Fear, U.D.O., Destruction) and featuring guest musicians form bands like Allegiance Reign, Defacing God and Withering Surface, all embraced by a comic book-inspired artwork by Danish artist David Troest. To Live to Kill to Live offers the listener 63 minutes of undisputed metal music, showcasing not only all the dexterity by frontman Lars F. Larsen, gutarists Kristian Larsen and Stefan Johansson, bassist Kasper Gram and drummer Lawrence Dinamarca, but also their creativity and precision in uniting Heavy Metal with a thrilling storytelling. “It all started out as a crazy and almost impossible idea… A book and two albums… I mean… come on? Today I’m so proud of the final result and I still can’t understand that we actually did it,” commented Kristian about the band’s newborn spawn, inviting us all to join them in this breathtaking adventure in the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

A cinematic intro ignites the 14-minute aria entitled Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud, quickly exploding into modern and electrifying Heavy Metal where Lawrence is absolutely bestial on drums, sounding like a hybrid between the music by Trivium and Stratovarius, and with Kristian and Stefan delivering sheer stamina from their riffs and solos. Furthermore, the storyline progresses flawlessly together with the massive wall of sounds and all breaks and variations blasted by Manticora, building an instant connection with the Japanese-inspired bridge To Nanjing, bringing peace to our minds and soothing our souls before those Danish metallers explode our senses with the imposing The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten by the Beasts, where Kasper and Lawrence bring tons of groove and intricacy to the music while Lars keeps declaiming the song’s dark words in great fashion, not to mention the guitar duo’s wicked solos. Then it’s time for a Groove and Heavy Metal feast entitled Slaughter in the Desert Room, where both guitars and Kasper’s bass jabs generate a rumbling atmosphere perfect for Lars to fire more of his trademark vocals. In other words, this amazing song couldn’t have sounded bolder nor more epic than what it already is.

Following such insane composition, phantasmagorical keys give an extra touch of evil and darkness to Through the Eyes of the Killer – Filing Teeth, a true Metal Opera where Kristian and Stefan take the lead with their sinister guitars while Lawrence blasts sluggish, Doom Metal-inspired beats; followed by Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life, leaning towards classic Scandinavian Melodic Death and Power Metal and at the same time sounding as thunderous as it can be, with Lars giving a lesson in passion and feeling while his bandmates don’t stop crushing their instruments not even for a single second for our total delectation. And Tasered/Ice Cage is another explosion of modern-day Melodic Death Metal with both Kristian and Stefan kicking some serious ass with their strident, piercing guitar lines, always in absolute sync with Lawrence’s intricate beats.

Then serene, acoustic guitars intertwined with crisp riffs in a Dream Theater-ish style ignite the pleasant Goodbye Tina, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and with tons of harmony flowing from Lars’ vocal lines, before Manticora come ripping once again with Tasered/Removal, a heavy and rumbling tune where Kasper does a superb job with his metallic bass, being perfect for cracking your neck headbanging to their solid fusion of Groove and Power Metal; whereas the atmospheric instrumental bridge Stalin Strikes will expand your senses and gently flow into a Japanese-spoken narrative titled Ten Thousand Cold Nights, advancing the storyline into the closing tune Katana – Beheaded, sounding and feeling imposing and vibrant form the very first second, therefore putting a climatic end to the album with all band members being on fire, in special the band’s unstoppable guitar duo and the talented Lawrence, while Lars continues to give life to the story through his soaring vocals.

If you haven’t got in touch with the music by Manticora yet, go check what those Danish metallers are up to on Facebook and on Instagram, listen to more of their music (including the first part of the story released in 2018) on Spotify, and grab a copy of To Live to Kill to Live from their own BandCamp page, from the Sound Pollution webstore, from the ViciSolum Productions’ BandCamp page, from Apple Music or from Amazon. In summary, we must all admit Manticore have definitely outdone themselves in their new album, sounding tighter and even more melodic and incendiary than in their previous album, and concluding their epic Japanese saga on a high and utterly metallic note. After setting the bar so high with To Live to Kill to Live, what’s next for Manticora? Well, that’s something only time will tell, but until then we have a lot of high-end metal music to enjoy thanks to one of the best bands hailing from the Danish scene.

Best moments of the album: Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud, Slaughter in the Desert Room and Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life.

Worst moments of the album: Goodbye Tina.

Released in 2020 ViciSolum Productions

Track listing
1. Katana – The Moths and the Dragonflies/Katana – Mud 14:40
2. To Nanjing 1:57
3. The Farmer’s Tale, Pt. 3 – Eaten by the Beasts 4:23
4. Slaughter in the Desert Room 6:11
5. Through the Eyes of the Killer – Filing Teeth 4:59
6. Katana – Death of the Meaning of Life 5:25
7. Tasered/Ice Cage 5:45
8. Goodbye Tina 5:54
9. Tasered/Removal 3:16
10. Stalin Strikes 2:36
11. Ten Thousand Cold Nights 0:51
12. Katana – Beheaded 7:26

Band members
Lars F. Larsen – vocals
Kristian Larsen – guitars
Stefan Johansson – guitars
Kasper Gram – bass
Lawrence Dinamarca – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Seraina Telli

Don’t leave me out in the cold…

She’s by far one of the best rock and metal singers of the current scene hands down. Owner of a beautiful, stunning and extremely potent voice, she’s also a songwriter, pianist, guitarist, vocal coach and designer, known for her awesome contributions to bands such as Dead Venus, Burning Witches and Surrilium, among other very interesting bands and projects, always ready to rock our hearts with her mesmerizing vocal lines. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our metal chick of the month of August, the ravishing Seraina Telli, the unstoppable musician from Aargau, one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland, who can flawlessly translate all her passion for music and art into emotional and inspiring compositions that will certainly captivate your hearts from the very first second. Having said that, are you ready to rock together with Seraina here on The Headbanging Moose?

A self-employed musician and vocal coach, Seraina has always wanted to make music and sing, and although she’s a team player who loves to play in bands she sees independent people as their role models, saying that she didn’t want to be a singer who just needs a band to play with her, but that she wanted to learn what it’s like to make music herself, playing different instruments and therefore being independent. Her looks and attire are also an important part of her musical persona, with all of her piercings, tattoos and her dyed hair providing a unique look that more than fits in the world of rock and metal music, but you’re wrong if you think Seraina is only a beautiful woman, as she has years of formal and professional study that provided her an invaluable background, allowing her to become the exceptional performer she is. Just to give you an idea of her undeniable talent,  she took classical singing lessons between 2007 and 2008, studied at the Jazz & Rock School in Freiburg, Germany from 2010 to 2011, achieved a Bachelor of Arts at hKDM and International Music College also in Freiburg, with focus on Jazz, Rock and Pop, between 2012 and 2013, and attended the Musik- Akademie Basel in 2015.

In regards to her career with Swiss Heavy/Power Metal band Burning Witches, Seraina was the band’s frontwoman between 2015 and 2019, having recorded with the band their debut self-titled album in 2017 and their sophomore effort Hexenhammer in 2018, as well as a four-track live album released in 2018 titled Burning Alive, recorded on September 30, 2017 at the Z7 Club in Pratteln, Switzerland. There are a few official videos on YouTube from when Seraina was the band’s vocalist, such as Hexenhammer, Black Widow and Executed, and also some unofficial live footage including a concert in Mannheim, Germany in 2018, and a pocket show at Salzhaus Brugg in 2018. I’m not going to extend this tribute to Seraina with the origins of the Burning Witches, but as already mentioned when their guitarist and founding member Romana Kalkuhl was our metal chick of the month in July 2019, during a party at a festival she met Seraina, starting a very healthy and productive partnership between them, with Seraina’s ideas and experience from her studies at the Music Academy and her bands being exactly what Romana wanted for Burning Witches. Furthermore, although Seraina always mention Heavy Metal as one of her passions, at the moment she is determined to go full throttle with her own band Dead Venus, saying Progressive Rock has always been her thing; however, we can expect to see Seraina venturing through heavier and faster lands in a not-so-distant future without a shadow of a doubt.

As we already started talking about Seraina’s brainchild, female-fronted Progressive Rock unity Dead Venus, where she’s not only the band’s vocalist but she also plays acoustic guitars, keyboards and piano, let’s discuss a little about the origins of the band, their goals and what their music represents to Seraina. Formed in early 2015 by Seraina herself around a year after being singing for a German Neo-Progressive Rock band named Surrilium, Dead Venus is a triumvirate currently comprised of Seraina on vocals, obviously, together with bassist André Gärtner and drummer Mike Malloth, delivering music that’s at the same time charming, passionate and incendiary, applying her multidimensional vocals to bring the desired message with each and every song, that being through her piercing vocals or just by whispering the lyrics. As a matter of fact, Seraina mentioned that it’s difficult to tell when Dead Venus actually started, as she began writing songs at some point and then began studying music and developed it further with music theory, learning the instruments and techniques better, which helped in the development of the songs, before she started looking for people to play them with. Seraina placed an advertisement recruiting musicians for Dead Venus, getting a reply from Mike, who also referred André for the band, whom by the way she already knew through her father (who had always spoken very well of him).

Apart from a couple of singles, the trio recently released at the end of 2019 their debut album, a 12-track Progressive Rock extravaganza titled Bird of Paradise (available for a full listen on Spotify), pointing to a bright future for Seraina and her bandmates. In addition, Seraina said that their goals with Dead Venus do not include appealing to a broader or more demanding audience, saying their music already has enough pop character in it despite not being disco dance music, of course. She complemented by saying that what Dead Venus and any other band needs is an audience that listens and that feels inspired by the music being played, as long as the music is authentic like what she does with Dead Venus, putting no boundaries to what the trio can do. You can listen to their music and purchase their debut album by visiting the MUSIC page on their official website, or by subscribing to their YouTube channel, where you’ll find some amazing compositions (and videos) for the songs The Sirens Call, Bird of Paradise and Redemptionless in both regular and acoustic versions.

You can also enjoy Seraina’s unique voice in other interesting bands and projects, showcasing all her versatility and skills it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock band playing covers or a full-bodied progressive and symphonic act. For instance, she did female vocals for Swiss Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Rizon from 2010 until 2014, having recorded with them the album Masquerade in 2012, which you can listen in its entirety HERE; and she’s been the vocalist for German Progressive Rock/Metal band Surrilium since 2011, having recorded with them the album Sir William in 2015. Seraina is also the vocalist for a distinct cover bands called Hit Grinder, taking hits that everyone knows and performing them in a unique way with heavy guitars, rocking drums and hard driving bass, giving those songs a more aggressive edge. The band is formed by Seraina on vocals, Stefan Schroff on the guitars, and a rotation between Yannick Schmidt and Emmi Lichtenhahn on bass and Franceso Gasparini and Alain Ackermann on drums, and you can get in touch with them and listen to more of their music on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, with their renditions of Sia’s Chandelier and Michael Jackson’s Bad showing you all of the band’s awesomeness.

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Perhaps one of the most delicious works by Seraina is her personal YouTube channel, where she puts her heart and soul into delivering beautiful versions of several rock, pop and metal classics, usually only accompanied by her own piano. Simply visit her YouTube channel and you’ll be able to enjoy our talented singer kicking ass with her versions for Red hot Chilli Pepper’s classic Under the Bridge as a studio project band from the hKDM Music High School in Freiburg, Edgar Alan Poe’s The Haunted Palace, Rush’s masterpiece Closer to the Heart together with a children’s choir, Nancy Wilson’s The Nearness of You, The Misfits’ Dig Up Her Bones live at a pub in Zurich, Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up, Sting’s The Hounds of Winter, Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons, John Lennon’s Imagine, and a very special version for Christina Aguilera’s Keep on Singin’ My Song, as according to Seraina herself Christina Aguilera was one of her teenage heroes and one of the reasons she started singing when she was around 13 years old. And let’s keep talking about her idols and influences, with bands like Opeth, Pain of Salvation and the almighty Judas Priest being among her favorite bands of all time. Seraina even mentioned in one of her interviews that playing with one of those three bands would be a dream come true for her, complementing by saying it would be beyond fantastic to be able to talk, interact and especially sing with the one and only Metal God Rob Halford.

When questioned about the fact she was in an all-girls band during her time with Burning Witches, our striking banshee said in the beginning the idea of only playing with other women in a band was quite funny for all of them, and that they never expected it to be such a big topic, having to face sexist comments and other situations related to the male/female gender differences. Needless to say, that didn’t have any impact on the way Seraina performs on stage, saying the most difficult part is actually dealing with her own emotions and feelings to make sure her voice perfectly sends the desired message. In addition, she said she usually has it under control, using the appropriate techniques to have the best results while playing live. Seraina is also responsible for designing her own outfits, saying it’s actually more like a hobby for her despite the fact she wanted to become a fashion designer before singing, mainly because it’s very time consuming. And regarding metal festivals, she said during her time with Burning Witches they always wanted to play something big such as Wacken Open Air, Sweden Rock Festival and Hellfest, but we must all agree that now with Dead Venus her focus is a lot more on smaller, more intimate venues and crowds.

When asked about her singing style, her limits as a vocalist and her writing and composing process, Seraina said she always puts her heart and soul into singing, it doesn’t matter if it’s a heavy-as-hell metal song or a serene rock ballad, complementing by saying that it’s all a matter of practice to know and understand your limits and what’s causing that barrier, such as breathing techniques and discipline. For example, she said she doesn’t do much Opera singing as she’s not professionally trained in it, but maybe with some time and by applying the right techniques she can reach a good performance singing it. Her process for writing and composing her songs is also very detailed and honest, with Seraina usually writing something on the piano and then complementing it with the guitar, not working with sequences and, therefore, sounding a lot more organic. She also said the order in which she writes the lyrics and the music is never the same, always depending on the song being composed and the situation she’s in, with most of the ideas for the music by Dead Venus coming from her past experiences, especially due to her anger, energy and creativity as a teenager, saying it wasn’t easy in the beginning for her as she doesn’t come from a family of musicians like several other artists.

If you also enjoy watching Seraina perform and not only listen to her powerful voice, you’ll notice she always carries a special chain or necklace, a symbol of luck that’s linked to her family. She said she had a very strong bond with her sister when they were kids, which by the way lasts until today, with the necklace being a gift she got for her 12th birthday from her stepfather that symbolizes two parts that are connected together and forever. As a matter of fact, the Dead Venus logo is a variation of that symbol, a Celtic cross knot with an “S” at the end. Talking about stunning looks in rock and metal, Seraina was asked what she would say if one day a band like Arch Enemy invited her to sing for them, and albeit she said she simply loves the charisma, the voice and the looks by the she-wolf Alissia White-Gluz, she said she couldn’t see herself fronting such distinct band.

Lastly, as an artist that has been making  music for a long time despite her young age, Seraina said she will always pursue a career in music no matter what, saying she got to know a lot of good people with both Dead Venus and Burning Witches that provide her all the support she needs to keep moving forward. She sees a lot of potential with Dead Venus, the type of music she has always wanted to do, but you can also hire her to feature on your next album doing backing vocals or singing one or more songs, for example, as she has already done a few studio and advertising jobs in her career. She can even sing in German (or Swiss German) if you prefer, and you can actually check Seraina speaking (not singing, though) in her mother tongue in a short interview where she talks about what it means for her to be from Aargau, how much she loves her hometown, and her life in the city. I guess after knowing about her personal life, her career and her passion for heavy music, there’s nothing better than banging our heads to Seraina’s piercing vocals or simply sitting down, relaxing and enjoying her more delicate creations, resting assured we’ll hear a lot more from such talented artist in the coming years.

Seraina Telli’s Official Facebook page
Seraina Telli’s Official Instagram
Seraina Telli’s Official YouTube channel
Dead Venus’ Official Facebook page
Dead Venus’ Official Instagram
Dead Venus’ Official YouTube channel

Metal Chick of the Month – The Harp Twins

Can you feel the wind of the north, my dear Camille and Kennerly?

How about we celebrate insane six years of The Headbanging Moose with two very talented women who have the unique ability of transforming the heaviest and most intense metal classics into serene and touching ballads only armed with their ethereal harps? I’m talking about Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known worldwide as The Harp Twins, who have achieved an unprecedented success not only among metal fans but in countless other music genres and entertainment segments, leading them to tour across several countries in North and America, Europe and anywhere else where their whimsical sounds are truly appreciated. And no, you’re not seeing double, as The Harp Twins are indeed identical twins, providing your avid ears double the pleasure with their refined skills by mixing all types of rock, metal and soundtrack arrangements with the gentle sounds flowing form their harps. Not only that, Camille and Kennerly are also accomplished actresses, showing there’s no actual limit for this talented American duo.

Born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States in 1989, with their heritage being mostly Norwegian mixed with Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish, French, German and a little Cherokee Indian, Camille and Kennerly began playing the piano when they were children, followed by the harp when they went to junior high school. The duo was drawn by the beauty of the harp, saying it seemed like a magical instrument to them. By the way, their first harps (small, pre-owned lever harps) were bought with money they got from jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, in order to show their mother they were really serious about playing the instrument. Classically trained in piano and also capable of playing a little percussion, the two blonde harpists also love to sing, which can be seen in some of their own original compositions and cover songs, although of course their main focus is and will always be their mesmerizing harps.

Having already played their electric harps, acoustic and electro-acoustic concert grand harps in several concert series, festivals, fairs and conventions in front of the most diverse crowds, even playing for US presidents, tech geniuses and global leaders, Camille and Kennerly have released over 100 singles online since the beginning of their career, as well as some very interesting cover albums, developing a huge cult of followers worldwide through their social media and becoming undoubtedly the most famous harp duo in the world. All that success is not in vain, of course, as both sisters hold a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance and graduated with highest honors (“Summa Cum Laude”) at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, located in Wheaton, Illinois, not to mention their previous years in a music studies program at a local college where they were in the Honors Scholar Program and represented the college at several collegiate summits.

Despite being formally trained in classical music and having the aforementioned degrees, their true obsession in music has always been taking the harp to new heights and exploring new grounds, nurturing a deep passion for arranging and performing rock, metal and soundtrack music as a harp duet, as well as their Nordic-inspired original songs thanks to their Scandinavian origin, always without any backtracks, studio productions or record labels involved, beautifully representing what it truly means to be an independent artist. And after listening to their duet arrangements of contemporary songs from artists including Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Enya and Journey, among many, many others, you’ll be able to fully understand why they have chosen to follow such distinguished path, embellishing the airwaves with their gentle, melodic and classy harp fingering.

As already mentioned, The Harp Twins, who by the way perform on Venus “Classic” Concert Grand pedal harps and Lyon & Healy “Silhouette” Electric lever harps, have several albums released (also in physical format) apart from their hundreds of online singles and videos, with their YouTube videos totaling over 106 million views with over 600,000 subscribers as of September 2019. For instance, their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven alone garnered over three million YouTube hits as of September 2019, while their version of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark received over 11 million views as of September 2019. Their six self-produced albums are Harp Attack (2013), Harp Attack 2 (2015), Harp Attack 3 (2018), Harp Fantasy (2013), Harp Fantasty 2 (2016), and Winter Lights (2017); while the Harp Attack series are dedicated to covers of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal songs and the Harp Fantasy series focus on covers of video game, anime, film and television soundtracks such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean, Final Fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, Vikings, Silent Hill and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few, Winter Lights was their first-ever holiday album, including two new original songs and ten new arrangements of holiday classics from years gone by. Furthermore, their music has also been featured in countless media like National Geographic, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Conan O’Brien’s TeamCoco, AMCtv.com, Guitar World, Revolver, and many more, having also been praised by different music icons like Megadeth, Billy Idol, Kansas and Within Temptation, who shared the twins’ music on their official social media.

As a metalhead, I’m pretty sure you’re eager to listen to Camille and Kennerly playing some of your favorite metal classics of all time, right? Well, all you have to do is subscribe to their YouTube channel, sit down and enjoy their harp versions for, but not limited to, Rush’s Closer to the Heart, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark, Metallica’s Fade to Black, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, and Megadeth’s A Tout le Monde. Go visit their official YouTube channel, or buy their music from CD Baby or from Apple Music, relax and enjoy these and countless other classic like Send Me an Angel, Smoke on the Water, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Hotel California, Don’t Stop Believin’, Every Breath You Take, and so on.

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Camille and Kennerly always say they switch off playing melody and accompaniment, even within the same piece, and also that apart from all cover songs they do either by request or by their own choice, they have also been composing original music for their harps for years, which can be seen in songs like North and the music theme for their own animated logo. In addition, you can also find Camille and Kennerly as guest harpists in the intro Time to Set You Free,  from the album The Second Big Bang, released in 2017 by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal project Soulspell. And regarding her main influences and idols in music, the twins mentioned in one of their interviews that their earliest musical influences were rock and classic rock because that’s what their mother used to listen to, including bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Van Halen, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash, later expanding their range due to their classical training to most artists and bands who think outside the box and follow their own path.

Although their main focus is obviously on their harp career, the duo is also famous for their acting and modeling skills, being members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA and having already acted in theater, film and television. For instance, in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, they played a walker nicknamed “Ouch That’s My Hair”, who was fought and killed by the character Carol, and had roles as “The Marcelli Twins” in the dark teen comedy Blacktino (as you can see in the official trailer by clicking HERE), from 2011, as well as appearances in many other movies like Delivery Man (2013), Elephant Medicine (2010) and The End of Lost Beginnings (2009), and in several commercial such as a national Japanese commercials for Chupa Chups lollypops. Still talking about their film career, Camille and Kennerly always like to mention that they do all their videos by themselves, arranging the music, finding the filming location, making their own costumes, filming everything with a small hand-held video camera on a tripod, recording the sound in their own living room and editing the video themselves. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as playbacks or any other “magic tricks” in their videos, as what you hear is exactly how it’s being played by our multi-talented twins. Also, when asked about their life on the road, Camille and Kennerly said in several interviews they have lots of memorable moments to share, like when they represented the United States at the World Harp Festival in Paraguay, where they had extensive support from the American embassy resulting in a full concert the day after the event to a sold out theater, and all of their performances at several Walker Stalker Cons, playing right before panels with Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs and Greg Nicotero. It’s impossible to list all events they have participated so far in their career, featuring in all types of public, private, philanthropic, academic, corporate, cultural and political events, proving once again how talented and professional they are.

Of course, there’s no Camille and Kennerly without their harps and vice-versa, and that’s why it’s important and truly interesting to know more about the girls’ ethereal weapons. Their acoustic concert grand harps are 6’3” (or 1.9 m) and weigh 90 lbs (or 40.8 kg), while their electric harps are 4’ (or 1.22 m) and weigh 16 lbs (or 7.25 kg); regarding the number of strings, their acoustic concert grand harps have 47 strings (which can have three different pitches, those being flat, natural and sharp), their electric lever harps have 33 strings (which can have two different pitches, either flat/natural or natural/sharp), and their Harpsicle Harps have 26 strings. In addition, although it’s possible for the twins to use distortion on their electric harps, they don’t actually do that due to the difficulty to use distortion while still continuing the melody and accompaniment; however, you can enjoy Camille and Kennerly blasting distorted harp sounds on their cover version for Billy Idol’s White Wedding (by the way, Billy Idol himself even said that “if you live long enough you get to see this version of White Wedding”), and a slight effect in their Doctor Who Theme and The Smith’s Asleep covers. When asked about how they manage to carry their harps everywhere and how they handle their weight while playing, they said they put a strap on their backs to do that, but that they also bruise their hips from the straps if they wear the harps for too long. They love the freedom of movement, though, helping them to properly perform rock songs with their electric harps. Some people like to ask them why they don’t move even more while playing, and they said it’s tougher to reach a necessary balance with the harps than with a guitar or violin, for example.

Aside from being impressive harpists, Camille and Kennerly also have a variety of other interests and hobbies in their lives, keeping them absolutely busy pretty much all of the time. For instance, the twins are third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do and former Tae Kwon Do instructors, which by the way caused two broken fingers to Kennerly while sparring one day, and stitches to Camille’s face as a result of puncture wound sustained while holding a board that Kennerly was breaking. In the end, those incidents made them decide to stop practicing martial arts and focus on their career as harpists. Our beloved blonde musicians were also competitive swimmers as kids (having both qualified for the Junior Olympics five times), are experts in rifle marksmanship, and are trained in horseback riding, not to mention their passion for other activities and hobbies such as hiking, working out, watching TV shows like The Walking Dead and Vikings, reading, writing, and so on. Moreover, the Kitt Twins are also actively involved in their community, supporting education and health initiatives for unprivileged children overseas, and volunteering for many years at a monthly deaf/hard-of-hearing social gathering (and yes, they know sign language), among other endeavors, as they strongly believe in the importance of giving back. The girls also sponsor a few kids in Ethiopia, helping to provide them school, food, clothing and medical care, always hoping more and more people will follow their steps to make the world a better place.

Last but not least, Camille and Kennerly’s connection as twins is beautifully externalized in the way they always look at each other while they’re playing, and in their twin costumes (which as mentioned are always put together by the twins themselves by mixing and matching things they already have at home), unless of course they need to dress differently for a commercial, film or media project. Having said that, if you want to have double the fun with the classy and mesmerizing music by Camille and Kennerly, or if you are an event organizer who’s searching for a truly unique attraction to captivate the attention of your guests on your next big event, you can get in touch with The Harp Twins by sending an email to HarpTwins@HarpTwins.com, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their Events Page on Facebook for all of their public performances, concerts and other events. And if you want to show your support to their distinguished work with their harps, as aforementioned you can purchase their music from Apple Music and from CD Baby, or simply visit their official website for all music, news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the unstoppable twins who give a beyond welcome touch of delicacy to our good old rock and metal music.

Camille and Kennerly’s Official Facebook page
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Instagram
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Twitter
Camille and Kennerly’s Official YouTube channel

“When someone tells us that our music has helped them through an illness, or inspired their child to learn an instrument, or even just given them some peace after a trying day, that means the world to us. As musicians, it’s the greatest feeling to know that our music has touched someone else in some way.” – Camille and Kennerly Kitt